Musicals are notorious for being overtly dramatic, severely lacking in reality, and incredibly corny; however, the NJIT & Rutgers production of Avenue Q breaks all of these stereotypes to bring a show filled with subtleties, almost-too-real bouts of wisdom, and tons of funny jokes. Involving a cast of three humans and twelve puppets, Avenue Q introduces the audience to Princeton (Bruno Ferreira), a fresh-faced, almost-23-year-old puppet with a BA in English as he stumbles through his first encounter with real life. After renting his first apartment on Avenue Q, Princeton becomes acquainted with his neighbors, Kate Monster (Amy Korner), Brian (Eric Holzer), Christmas Eve (Ju Young Park), Nicky (Alex Su), Rod (Isaac Jimenez), and Gary Coleman (Gabriela Acosta), each with aspirations that they haven’t quite yet reached.As the show progresses, the audience sees the characters encounter some very real problems, from homelessness to love and relationships, all while Princeton begins his quest to find his “purpose” despite the interventions of the Bad Idea Bears (Alicia Kaur & Connor Criscoe) and Lucy the Slut (Alexis Ariel Plaza). Through songs such as “If You Were Gay” and “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist,” the show explores some subjects that would typically be deemed uncouth to talk about in a public setting, calling both the characters and the audience out in ways that most would be too afraid to do in real life. Somehow, the childish catchiness of the songs made the sensitive topics both okay to mock and downright hysterical.
In order to capture the essence of “Sesame Street” while still keeping the show relevant, this particular production of Avenue Q enlisted departments across NJIT & Rutgers campuses to produce a number of videos to accompany the performance. These videos did a wonderful job of keeping the audience engaged by spelling and sounding out words in the same fashion as a Sesame Street show, delivering the proper amount of nostalgia while also enhancing the actors onstage. The actors in the show delivered great performances, embodying the character through both the puppet and their own expressions, at times breaking the fourth wall in order to properly deliver a punch line.
Through clever lyrics and dialogue, the show delivers a contrast between childhood optimism and crushing reality that resonates with many young adults of today, making it the perfect show for an audience of college students on the brink of graduation waiting to see what real life holds. Although musicals may not be everyone’s cup of tea, Avenue Q has proven to be the kind of musical that any millennial can appreciate.