« Is the Hoppera Popular Entertainment?Should it be? | Main | A Compelling Queen of Spades »

Avenue Q—Not for Little Monsters

After seeing the touring show of Avenue Q on November 27 at Washington, DC’s National Theatre, the Dresser wonders if all fathers called their children little monsters? The Dresser’s dad did and it was affectionate despite incidents such as her sister Nancy hitting their brother Jammy over the head with a sharp hoe because he was teasing her. Too bad that when they were four and seven, the ages of that hoedown, there was no Monstersorri school for them like the one Kate Monster dreamed of building and gets on Avenue Q. The Dresser imagines Kate’s Monstersorri with its backing by her on-and-off boyfriend Princeton would instill P-U-R-P-O-S-E in its little monsters.
Princeton, Robert McClure, Kate Monster, Kelli Sawyer
Photo by Carol Rosegg


The Dresser’s son Ivan grew up watching the popular kid’s television show Sesame Street, which was the satirical impetus of Avenue Q. Momma Dresser loved Sesame’s Cookie Monster for both his ruffian and huggable ways. On Avenue Q, Cookie Monster is represented by Trekkie Monster.
Minglie Chen, Trekkie Monster, Christian Anderson
Photo by Carol Rosegg

Trekkie Monster’s name is misleading though. He is not a fan of Gene Roddenberry’s popular science fiction universe known as Star Trek (including the t.v. series and many films). Trekkie Monster is an Internet geek hooked on pornography.

While no parent has to worry that Trekkie’s interests extend to child porn, Avenue Q is not family entertainment. So, Parents, leave your little monsters at home. You don’t want them getting any bad ideas from such cleverly written and humable songs as “Everybody’s a Little Racist,” “The Internet Is for Porn,” or “Schadenfreude.” Even harmless songs like “It Sucks to be Me” or “I'm Not Wearing Underwear Today” are bound to get on parental nerves. For extra punch, just in case you parents are not yet convinced, Robert Lopez (original conception, music & lyrics), Jeff Marx (original conception, music & lyrics) and Jeff Whitty (book), the originating collaborators of Q, have created two small puppets named the Bad Idea Bears who bedevil Princeton with their infectious squealing laughter urging the young man, fresh out of college and jobless, to buy beer when he was down in the dumps. When he says no, get lost to their string of progressively worse ideas, they bring him a noose and say, try this.


Throughout Q, there is something primitive at work on the viewer’s emotions. The way the puppeteer moves his or her puppet and the way the puppeteer moves with the puppet is mesmerizing, charming, and endearing. The Dresser must be a sap, but she loved the way the puppets tilted their heads back and forth. All of the puppeteers—Robert McClure (Princeton and Rod), Kelli Sawyer (Kate Monster and Lucy T. Slut), David Benoit (Trekkie Monster and Bear), and Minglie Chen (Mrs. T. and Bear)—expertly handled more than one puppet with different voices for each.

Although the Dresser enjoyed the music and lyrics of all the songs, she thinks Q as a “dumb show” would be fascinating, especially if they cut out Christmas Eve’s performance of the Electric Slide and Pony. The Dresser says bring on a little cutting-edge modern dance with Eastern touches or kickboxing choreography. Christmas Eve (played by Angela Ai) as the counselor-wise woman is ripe for a wild dance, but even without that kind of movement and no puppet, the Dresser found this saucy character the most interesting one on the stage.
Kate Monster, Kelli Sawyer, Angela Ai, Rod, Minglie Chen
Photo by Carol Rosegg

However, the double roles played by McClure and Sawyer make an interesting collective statement. McClure plays both the straight Princeton and the closeted gay Rod. Sawyer plays the schoolteacher Kate Monster and the sexpot Lucy Slut. The Dresser thinks the Q creators didn’t twin these sexual opposites by accident and again this plays into that appeal to primitive emotional reaction.
Lucy The Slut, Kelli Sawyer
Photo by Carol Rosegg

The Dresser did not know the significance of the character named Gary Coleman except that he had been a child star on t.v. For anyone who does not recognize the name, Coleman appeared in the sitcom Different Strokes and did quite well financially. As an adult, his money earned as a child was gone and he became a security guard. In Avenue Q, Coleman is the apartment super and yes, he, played by Carla Renata, sings along with some of the other characters "It Sucks to Be Me."
Carla Renata
Photo by Carol Rosegg

Ah, and then there is the matter of the video screens that play with how words are spelled and transformed. There is the word “purpose” (that’s Princeton Holy Grail) which gets transformed to “propose” (which is what is associated with Kate Monster—OK, she is a stereotype). The video screen feeding the audience the magic of meaningful symbols in the way alphabetic symbols on Sesame Street were projected to fire up the neurons of little children just learning to read reaches into some pocket that is primal if not primitive.


The Dresser does not care that Avenue Q, winner of three 2004 Tony Awards for Best Musical, Best Original Musical Score and Best Musical Book, got kicked out of Vegas. (The Dresser ventures that Q was not excessive enough for Sin City.) Although she thinks Act I should be about 15 minutes shorter, the Dresser is pleased to say this is the most satisfying musical she has seen in years. Because the Dresser still retains some of that familial monster-ness, she’ll nudge her praise with this swipe of her hoe—Avenue Q is not for the masses. Its best audience have college degrees, speak English, own computers that they use, and earn sufficient money to enjoy a good life. And hey! With over 20 city stops on their national tour, you can decide for yourself. Avenue Q will be in your neighborhood soon.

Here’s a poem by Sarah Browning that addresses the issue of racism from a child’s perspective.


Walking home from the library,
holding my friend Robin’s hand.
Late afternoon light, a spring flash
of rain in oily puddles around us.

Robin and I telling stories—
boys who chased us today
on the second grade playground,
who tried to grab us with their kisses.

Across the street three big girls
walking toward us, laughing.
Robin says, Jeremy Hatt
is the grossest
. I say, Ick.

Hey! says one of the girls
across the street,
What are you doing with that honky girl?
talking to Robin.

Robin and I walk a little faster,
let go of each other’s hand.
Why you want to be friends
with that honky bitch?

A little rock flying
across the street, another.
The girls turn, follow us,
but don’t cross the street.

Now we run and the rocks
fall plink behind us.
We turn the corner.
There’s my house.

We haven’t said a thing.
The girls are bored and turn away.
We slow to a fast walk.
We go inside. Get snacks.

Turn on Gilligan’s Island.
Sit down to watch.
It’s the one where the Skipper
gets amnesia.

By Sarah Browning
From Whiskey in the Garden of Eden

Copyright © 2007 Sarah Browning


Post a comment

Use this form to place a comment to a post in the blog. You must include a valid email address for spam protection. Please see our Privacy Policy for details on how your private information is used and protected. Your comment will be posted as soon as it is reviewed by the blog editor.


This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on November 30, 2007 2:31 PM.

The previous post in this blog was Is the Hoppera Popular Entertainment?Should it be?.

The next post in this blog is A Compelling Queen of Spades.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.