Avenue Q - a review

A great show I was laughing from beginning to end - well except for that one bit.

From the opening sequence in Avenue Q where a man walks onto the stage carrying a muppet-like puppet in his hands I began laughing. "Princeton" has just graduated from college and is flung out into the world wondering "what do you do with a BA in English?", I couldn't but empathise as he opined "Four years of college and plenty of knowledge / Have earned me this useless degree" how else do you imagine I found myself an English teacher (in England of all places)?

The show delights in being able to be negative - the chorus of the opening song is "it sucks to be me" and all of the characters in the fictional New York neighbourhood that the story is set in compete with each other over whose life is worse. Former child superstar Gary Coleman of "Different Strokes" fame takes the cake with his life over before he even reached puberty. During a conversation about acheiving your "purpose" in life, Gary admits that his greatest fear is that he's already achieved his purpose in life.

The one song that I didn't care for was titled "Everyone's a little bit racist" and seemed to try to conflate the more or less harmless national stereotypes that people keep about different cultures and especially neighbouring cultures with "racism". I can't help feeling that racism is rightly reviled by most working people as an ideology that justifies cruelty, violence and exploitation towards certain ethnic or racial backgrounds based upon their supposed inferiority. To then try to conflate racism with the much more benign national stereotypes about French people and the German word "schadenfreude" for example is somewhat disturbing and certainly not amusing. This whole song jumps from false preachiness to shock-value humour from line to line and I couldn't help but feel awkward as I sat through it. After an awkward sermon where Princeton sings that people who are a "little bit racist" don't go around committing hate crimes, an attempt at livening the mood is made through the outrageous "Mexican busboys should learn to speak goddamn English!", afterwards the preaching is taken up again when Princeton continues that "uncouth" ethnic jokes are "based on truth".

Happily that particular song came to end. And thanks to the hilariously cute "bad idea bears" it was all but forgotten by the time Trekkie Monster began his own song "The Internet is for Porn."

It was in fact, a clever and entertaining show. Taking a light-hearted look at the angst of growing old and the desire to accomplish things in life. It is therefore such a shame that it was ruined by the bitter aftertaste of one poorly conceived song. 3 and a half stars.

Image courtesy: Michael Schamis (Creative Commons License via Flickr)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey fellow,

You missed your (albeit self-imposed like a Catholic) Monday deadline.

Now, you're a real writer.

... On to the topic at hand, I am over jokes about how we're all racist, or whatever. I find such fare usually comes from US comedy where the knowledge about 'enculturization' (ie people believing in race by the very fact they are told to) is limited and lacking.

Acknowledging your own 'little' racism, by definition means accepting the silly labels of race as a fact. Something which all science shows to be a furphy.