A Visually Stimulating Weekend – Part 2 · 18 July 2007
After being thrilled by Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix on Saturday, the weekend of visual fun continued.
On Sunday, the SDF-O went to see the San Diego production of Avenue Q at the Spreckles Theater. I don’t get downtown often enough (most of my travel is in the northward direction) and so it’s always amazing to see the rapid progress of development between my visits. More importantly though, there are banners for Comic-con up in the gaslamp district and I started to get quite excited about going.
I haven’t been to Comic-con in years, but I decided to attend this year. After reading about the great experiences that other bloggers have been having at their local (and not so local) cons this summer, I’m looking forward to it even more. There is going to be a wealth of authors and speakers, and a fun time should be had by all.
But, back to Avenue Q. Originally a Tony-award winning Broadway musical, Avenue Q is now making the North-American rounds. Because I’m part of the generation that was raised watching Sesame Street, I was exactly the target audience for this show. Avenue Q is a quirky, off-colored illustration of the process of growing up. In an obvious nod to other puppet greats, the opening song, “What Do You Do with a B.A. in English?,” starts with the same melody as the opening of The Rainbow Connection (as made famous by Kermit the Frog from The Muppet Show and Sesame Street).
Avenue Q takes the premise of Sesame Street, providing skits laden with morals and lessons, and applies it to a cast of characters finding their way through early adulthood. Instead of learning the wholesome morals of sharing or honesty, and the basic skills of counting, the characters learn the hard lessons of unemployment, relationships, and depression.
The first part of the show was hilarious. With songs titled “It Sucks to Be Me” and “The Internet is for Porn” belted out by cheery-voiced puppeteers, the cast had the audience in stitches. Avenue Q took the concept that many things are funny because they’re uncomfortably true (as presented in the song “Everyone’s A Little Bit Racist”) and used it as the basis for the beginning of the show. The plot was only the backdrop for the ideas presented, but underlying the fun and games was the puppet Princeton’s search for a purpose in life, a search mirrored to different extents by the other characters.
The songs were often separated by short skits involving disembodied floating screens. These were television-like screens that were lowered from the curtain at various points during the show and imparted appropriate guidance and advice “from above." I thought the screens were a great device. They really underlined the homage to Sesame Street by parodying many classic Sesame Street segments. The screens also underlined the struggles of the characters in Avenue Q. Many of the characters were young people, alone in an adult world with no one to turn to. The screens acted as the disembodied voice of experience, subtly guiding the characters.
Of course, for every guardian angel, there’s a less helpful counterpart. In Avenue Q, it took the form of my favorite characters, the Bad Idea Bears. These two were a pair of trouble, a double devil on your shoulder. They had the highest, squeakiest voices in the cast, and unlike the other characters were exaggeratedly cutesy. Throughout the show they egged on the other characters to irresponsible behavior and acted betrayed if someone didn’t go along with their bad ideas. The obvious dichotomy between innocent looking and ill intentioned was so overdone it was hilarious.
After the intermission, the plot became a bit of a burden, as stories introduced in the first half had to be tied up. Also, the theme, while relevant, became a bit forced, and the musical didn’t flow as freely between off-the-wall portrayals of life.
One thing I found amazing about this production is how lifelike the puppets appeared. Although it was evident that the puppeteers were as much a part of the action as the puppets, sashaying through the sexy scenes and cringing in embarrassment during the uncomfortable scenes, the puppets themselves were incredibly expressive (even with the disturbing lack of lower bodies). It was easy to believe that the puppets were the characters, and so when puppeteers handed off puppets to each other, it didn’t seem that there was a conflict in the character portrayal.
Although I really enjoyed the experience, I think this is a musical that could be almost as well appreciated just by listening to the sound-track, especially if budget concerns are an issue. However, if you’re interested in checking out the live version, there is a promotional video for the London production posted on YouTube that has a few clips from the show and Variety has a review of the North American production up.
So that was my weekend. Not bad at all. If all goes well, I’ll have the wrap-up food post for The God of Small Things (fruity naan bread!) by Friday and a review of Last Call by Tim Powers by the end of the weekend.
Christmas Eve · 24 December 2006
The cookies are baked; the shopping and wrapping are done; it’s now time to sit back and enjoy the fruits of the last weeks’ labors.
I’m very pleased with how the chocolate-ginger freezer cookies turned out. They are just as pretty as the cookbook picture promised, and the subtle tanginess of the ginger dough complements the rich chocolate coating and sweet-sour candied ginger topping nicely.
Chocolate-Ginger Freezer Cookies
I’ve taken the relaxation of today to catch up on some reading. I look to have some promising reviews to share in the next few weeks as a result.
The rest of the evening is dedicated to eating dinner and relaxing by a warm fire. For those who partake in the holiday tradition of listening to music on Christmas Eve, take a listen to the latest Holly Cole Christmas compilation. She’s an amazing sultry-voiced Canadian singer with a penchant for poking fun at the commercialism of the holiday. One of the songs she performed on tour, but unfortunately not on the album, is “Maybe This Christmas”, available on writer and fellow vocalist Ron Sexsmith’s MySpace. If you’re a sucker for sentimentalism like I am, pay attention to the lyrics then call a long lost friend to wish them well.
Hope your holidays are all that you could ask for.
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