Everything in Life Is Only for Now As ‘Avenue Q’ Closes After 16 Years

Avenue Q's Rod, Nicky, and Kate Monster

By Jonathan Spira on 24 May 2019
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“Nothing lasts,” a line from the musical “Avenue Q” tells us, and that now goes for the Tony Award-winning show as well. The show’s last performance is Sunday evening and the denizens of Avenue Q will live on in regional productions and tours as well as in our hearts and minds.

As sunny as the show’s opening song is at first, theatergoers immediately start to realize they’re not on Sesame Street anymore, but in a much darker and far more fun place, a place where puppets can say things that humans sometimes cannot.

“We use puppets to talk about subject matters that would be too blunt people delivered it,” said Rick Lyon, who conceived and created the puppets that star in the show and who also originated the roles of Trekkie Monster and Nicky, in an interview with FBT. “The fuzzy friends we remember fondly from our childhood make good messengers.”

Welcome to Avenue Q.

Welcome to Avenue Q.

A modern coming-of-age story, “Avenue Q” struck a cord when I first saw it in 2004 that continues to resonate today: it was about 20- and 30-somethings who are looking for their purpose and ambivalent about a future where having a B.A. in English doesn’t add up to very much.

Princeton, Rod, Trekkie Monster, Kate Monster, Brian, Christmas Eve, the Bad Ideas Bears, and a rather down-and-out Gary Coleman made an indelible impression on me when “Avenue Q” opened at the John Golden Theatre.

As Princeton wondered in a song, “What do you do, with a B.A. in English?” as he searched for his purpose, I wondered about mine. (I still do, sometimes.) As Rod, the closeted investment banker Republican, struggled with his sexual identity, I thought of friends who were in similar straits.

What Princeton and his friends on Avenue Q encounter – racism, stereotypes, porn, sex, sexual identity, and politics – are as valid today as they were when the show made its debut.

“One of the remarkable things about Avenue Q is that, considering it was conceived in the Bush years, it’s managed to maintain its relevance,” Lyon told me. “We’re there for your adult journey.”

Indeed, noting the current political climate, Lyon noted that society has “taken some horrific steps backwards.” “Today we’re living in a period when there’s even less tolerance than when the show was conceived, as well as in an era where there are diminished expectations.”

One song stands out for Rick in particular: “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist.”

With lyrics that include the admission found in the title and a request for everyone to stop being so P.C., it hits on stereotypes for just about everyone and points out the fallacies in the day-to-day judgments that we make.

“It’s one of the best songs in musical theater in the past 25 years,” Rick said approvingly.

As news spread of the show’s closing, tributes poured in from far and near.  Most notably, the Smithsonian Institution announced that three of the show’s characters created by Rick –  Kate Monster, Rod, and Nicky – will become part of its permanent popular entertainment collection at the National Museum of American History.

After seeing “Avenue Q” for the first time on Broadway, I saw it again in 2006 in the Noël Coward Theatre in the West End, and have seen it at least a half dozen times in recent years in its off Broadway home.

There’s no doubt that thousands of fans, least of all myself, will miss it. Perhaps to ease the pain, Rick related what Bobby Lopez, the show’s co-creator along with Jeff Marx, said to him, namely that if the show doesn’t close off Broadway, we can’t open it up on Broadway as a revival.

(Photos: Accura Media Group)

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