Despite being new to theater, I felt ready for whatever the hilariously trashy "Avenue Q" had to throw at me. But I was not emotionally prepared for the puppet sex.
In its return to the District Theatre, the irreverent musical spoofs Sesame Street as it pokes fun at racism and homophobia with a lightheartedness that seems to channel South Park. Directed again by Marc Ciemiewicz and under musical direction by Randin Turner, the show is a complete riot.
Since the District Theatre's launch in summer 2011, artistic director Tristan Tapscott already has taken on some of the edgier plays and musicals like "Rocky Horror" and "Rent" with gusto. And after a nearly sold-old run with "Avenue Q" last fall, he decided to revamp the show and bring it back for those who missed out.
"Avenue Q" follows the life of Princeton, a broke college grad who moves to New York with ambitions of proving himself to the world. With few options open to him he settles for an apartment on Avenue Q, where he fits in right away with the curious cast of misfits, all aspiring for a decent job, a stable relationship and a "purpose."
Scored with jaunty tunes like "Everyone's a Little Bit Racist" and "The Internet is for Porn," the show is unapologetically crude.A fit of joyous hysteria erupted throughout the theater as Gary Coleman serenaded two puppets with "You Can Be as Loud as the Hell You Want" as they frantically banged it out.
Crudeness aside, the show is surprisingly heartfelt with the beautifully sentimental "There's a Fine, Fine Line." Even some of the more upbeat tunes like "I Wish I Could Go Back to College" and "For Now" come off as bittersweet.
The show stars much of the same cast from last fall, including Bryan Tank (Princeton), Erin Churchill (Kate Monster), Joe Maubach (Nicky), Mike Kelly (Trekkie Monster), Tracy Pelzer-Timm (Mrs. T, Bad Idea Bear) and newcomer to the cast Nina Schreckengost (Lucy, Bad Idea Bear).Together they truly bring the characters to life as deeply flawed and disturbingly relatable as theyhandle and portray the puppets, crafted by Moline native Erika Friesth.
The same vibrancy is seen in the three nonpuppet characters: Brian (played by James Fairchild), his Japanese fiancee Christmas Eve (Cindy Ramos-Parmley) and Gary Coleman (the building superintendent and former "Different Strokes" star, played by newcomer Kiarra D. Andrews).
Given the adult situations and full puppet nudity, "Avenue Q" may not be suitable for the easily-offended, and you probably should not bring your kids. But for anyone who can look past the immaturity and the vulgarity, you will find a gleaming story of hope and finding your place in life. Or at least finding happiness where you are now.
If you go:
-- What: "Avenue Q."
-- When: Thursday, Friday and Saturday (and March 28-30) at 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m.
-- Where: The District Theatre, 1611 2nd Ave., Rock Island.
-- Tickets: $20, available by calling 309-235-1654