I was in New York City over the weekend, seeing some shows. (The Norman Conquests: Table Manners, The Wiz, and Knickerbocker Holiday. See my review of NC:TM below. Look for my reviews of the remaining two later in the week. In short: yay, feh, and meh, in that order.)
I had every intention of leaving the city Sunday morning and heading north to Hillsdale to help my dear friend Ann celebrate her birthday. But then Ann called me on Saturday and said, "Stay in the city. I want to come down and see a show."
Twist my arm.
Since it was her birthday, I gave her free reign as to the show we would see. (Although I was dying to suggest that we take in The Norman Conquests: Living Together, I made it a point of honor not to influence her decision.) She had never seen Avenue Q, and although I had seen it twice already, I found a discount code and ordered up a pair of tickets.
I had heard a rumor that the Broadway production of Avenue Q might be closing in September, and asked one of the staff members at the theater whether that might be true. He said that no official announcement had yet appeared, but that they weren't selling tickets beyond September 13th. Then, this morning, that announcement came: Avenue Q will indeed be closing in September. The show will have played 2,534 regular performances and 22 previews. I'm happy to say that I was at one of those previews, and instantly fell in love with this charming, funny, sweet, and profane show. When it closes, the show will be the 20th longest-running show in Broadway history, putting it past The Producers, Annie, and the recent revival of Cabaret.
Avenue Q holds a special place in Broadway history. First, it pulled off one of the biggest upsets in Tony history by snatching the best-musical award from the hands of Wicked. But, more important, it demonstrated that small shows could make money on Broadway: that you didn't have to have falling chandeliers, or rising tires, or landing helicopters to lure in crowds, make a profit, and provide an entertaining evening out. Subsequent modest shows that became money makers, such as The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, The Drowsy Chaperone, Spring Awakening, and the recent revival of Sweeney Todd, all have Avenue Q to thank for proving to a skeptical producing community that it was possible.
I'm happy to report that the current Broadway cast more than does this delightful little show justice. Particularly good is Howie Michael Smith as Princeton/Rod, who crafts a performance that's thoroughly distinct from that of John Tartaglia, who originated the role. Equally good, and just as individual in his interpretation, is Christian Anderson as Nicky/Trekkie Monster. Overall the show remained tight and fresh: even six years into its run, Avenue Q has retained its ability to charm, to shock, and to entertain.
If you haven't seen Avenue Q yet, or even if you have, I can't recommend it highly enough. As an added incentive, original cast member Ann Harada will be rejoining the show as part of its final cast. Harada was an absolute riot as Christmas Eve, and no one else I've seen in the part has quite measured up to Harada's masterful portrayal.
To quote one of the best songs from the show, "Everything in life is only for now."