Avenue Q: Entertaining and Enlightening


The cast of Avenue Q. Image courtesy of Jay Sundar Ragan

Monica Sager, Scarlet Staff

In Avenue Q’s 15th anniversary year, Clark Musical Theater (CMT) honored the musical in a funny, creative production in the Little Center. The musical is a coming-of-age play focusing on the stress and anxieties of growing up. Its music and lyrics were written by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx, and premiered on Broadway in 2003.

“A lot of the show’s content actually didn’t catch me by surprise at all,” said Brett Iarrobino (’21), who played multiple characters, including a Bad Idea Bear and Nicky. “I actually gave a presentation on Avenue Q in my seventh grade drama class…and I guess there’s something about doing an in-class presentation on live puppet sex that sticks with you when you’re 13 because Avenue Q has since then always been on my bucket list as a show I had to see.”

Iarrobino saw the musical live last winter in New York City. “Finally fulfilling that dream when I saw the show earlier this year was a whole other experience entirely,” he said. “Hearing about all of the inappropriate content versus actually witnessing it live are two very different things.”

The play follows Princeton, played by Ethan Moncur (’20), a recent graduate with an English degree, wondering what his purpose in life is (“Purpose”) and what he can do with no experience and his degree (“What Do You Do with a B.A. in English?”).

He moves to an affordable apartment on Avenue Q, which makes Gary Goleman, professionally played by Shani Adia, his building superintendent.

Princeton meets many new friends, and even falls in love with one, Kate Monster, who is played by Samantha Hughson (’19).

Avenue Q is made up of three human characters and 11 puppets. In a Sesame Street-esque style, the characters all interact and learn from each other.

Some of the characters even invoke direct similarities to Sesame Street. For example, Trekkie Monster, played by Jake Rosenthal,  sounds exactly like Cookie Monster—but instead of loving cookies, this monster is obsessed with porn, as evident in his song “The Internet is for Porn.”  

Rod, played by Kenny Liappes (’21), and Nicky, played by Shawn McGarry (’19) and Iarrobino, who are roommates, are definitely a remake of Bert and Ernie. This character pairing, and the song “If You Were Gay” perfectly tie into the recent report from Mark Saltzman, a former writer on Sesame Street. Saltzman announced in September that Bert and Ernie are lovers, paralleling Saltzman and his partner Arnie.

One character pairing that always seemed to make the audience laugh were the Bad Idea Bears. “Thom, our director, asked for the sugariest, sweetest voice I could muster, and the horribly obnoxious voice I read with is pretty much the same one I’ve been using since the first rehearsal,” said Iarrobino, whose first musical at Clark is Avenue Q but it is his third main-stage production. “I seriously have too much fun being a Bad Idea Bear.”

Like Sesame Street, the play has many lessons throughout it—told with humor and through song. “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist” shows how Kate Monster’s dream of a monster-only school is discriminatory and how jokes we all tell can be misinterpreted.

Avenue Q also effectively makes the audience emotional. “I remember sitting in the audience and suddenly realizing I was crying during the Act I finale,” Iarrobino said. “I was just like ‘Seriously? Did Avenue Q really sing a song about porn and then put me in my feelings 20 minutes later?’ It’s a well-rounded experience for sure.”

Overall, the play teaches the audience that life doesn’t always go your way, and that you have to pick yourself up, and create your own path. “The play pinpoints on ideas that are not always talked about and made it in a way that was light-hearted and funny,” said Maheen Habib ( ’21), Assistant Scenic Designer. “I think this is a very creative musical because of how it discusses topics of identity and how a person can find their identity in a way that gets the point across while also being entertaining and engaging.”

The set consists of three buildings that look rundown, perfect for the feel of Avenue Q. Leaves and vines grow freely. Graffiti adorns the walls, including: Smok weed, xtrem, Gay (on Rod’s house), and the word “tits” above a “for sale” sign.

“I would say the set for Avenue Q was much more hands on and I did more work with this set,” said Habib, who also worked on last spring’s production of The Little Mermaid. “This set had a lot more drilling and putting different pieces together.”

Likewise, lighting for the show was also a little different than past plays. “It’s one of the harder ones (I’ve been in) to spotlight,” said Maya Krantz (’21), Lighting Assistant and Spotlight Operator. “Because the actors go so close to the audience that where the spotlights are positioned in the balcony in the Little Center, when they move so close, the light doesn’t hit them. So it’s hard to track them with the light sometimes.”

All in all, you will leave the two-hour musical with a smile on your face. All the actors are incredibly talented singers and the casting is perfect, to say the least. You will be thinking of Avenue Q for days to come. “Every night can feel like a different performance with new moments and details to appreciate, and that’s a really unique experience for me personally in theatre,” Iarrobino said. “I’m very lucky to get to be a part of more incredible theatre here!”

The play is still showing and can be seen in the Little Center November 8, 9, and 10 at 7:30pm. Doors open at 7pm.