‘Avenue Q’ delivers laughs while teaching post-collegiate life lessons

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Like many recent college graduates, Princeton is unemployed and looking for some guidance in his life. He also happens to be a puppet living on Avenue Q.

“Avenue Q,” a musical written by Jeff Whitty, shows the life of puppets and humans living together while dealing with unemployment, poverty, relationships and being in the closet. The musical takes place on Avenue Q, a run-down part of New York where the characters live.

Princeton, played by Isaak Olson, is a newcomer to the neighborhood who just graduated from college and finds himself lost and without a job. Kate Monster, an aspiring teacher who wants to create a school for monsters like herself and is played by San Antonio native Jovi Lee Gonzales. Brian, a neighbor, dreams of being a stand-up comedian and his fiancée Christmas Eve is a therapist with no clients.

Other characters including Nicky and his roommate Rod, also played by Isaak Olson, who struggle over roommate issues like dirty dishes and Rod’s secret of being gay. The whole building is run by Gary Coleman – the Gary Coleman from “Diff’rent Strokes” – who is grappling with his former child stardom. Coleman is convincingly played by Tiffany Nichole Greene.

“Avenue Q” is known as being an R-rated version of “Sesame Street” with its use of puppets, vocabulary, cartoons and songs, but it has some life lessons underneath the adult jokes.

“The Internet Is For Porn” and even though no one likes to admit it, “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist” are some of the songs that make audiences laugh and that teach a lesson.
The actors flawlessly transition from different characters, which is no doubt difficult considering they are acting, singing and puppeteering all at once. Some of the entertainment comes from just seeing these actors change their voice and puppet mannerisms from one character to another.

Gonzales portrays Kate Monster, a sweet and innocent aspiring teacher and Lucy (a.k.a Lucy the Slut), a femme fatale puppet after Princeton, the hero. Although the two characters are vastly different, Gonzales’ transition from each character is seamless, and each character’s singing voice is distinct. It sounds like it could have come from two different performers.

“Living in a character is a lot fun. It’s fun to jump out of your own skin and be somebody else,” says Isaak Olson. “It was definitely a challenge when we first got here and had to learn how to do puppeteering. It’s constantly improving. You’re constantly learning new expressions and reactions.”

Audiences relate to the show’s characters (even if they are puppets), with songs such as “What do you do with a B.A in English,” “It Sucks to Be Me” and “I Wish I Could Go Back to College.” Performances were memorable, and the songs were so funny and catchy, theatre-goers will be singing them long after they have left the theater.

‘Avenue Q’ will play at the Cameo Theatre (1123 E. Commerce St.) Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 4 p.m. Tickets are $20-$30. Call (210) 212-5454 or visit cameocenter.com for tickets and more information.