This was the next of the bizarre off-Broadway transfers I spoke of, and it was much better and much more successful than Urinetown. This was basically an adult-oriented version of Sesame Street, with puppets, parody lesson songs, and lots of crude humor. The book is raucously hilarious but ultimately manages to be touching and, in its own way, just as positive as the thing it’s spoofing. The visuals were insanely funny, particularly the much-talked about puppet sex scene, and the score was one of the decade’s most delightful.
The songs parodied Sesame Street’s educational numbers, so they feature the same insanely catchy melodies, but with titles like “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist” and the wildly memetic “The Internet Is for Porn”. These songs, along with the lyrical-dissonance cheer-up ditty “It Sucks to Be Me”, the brutally funny “Schadenfreude”, and the outrageous “My Girlfriend, Who Lives In Canada”, rank among the funniest comedy numbers of the decade. The show is also strong on ballads, particularly the heartbreakingly beautiful “There’s a Fine, Fine Line”.
But for all the show’s virtues, I still have to join in the widespread protest at Avenue Q winning the Tony over Wicked. I once ran into a very witty, if rather cruel, saying on a Broadway-related website: “Avenue Q is here for now; Wicked is here for good”. (If you don’t get the joke, buy and listen to both cast albums). And sadly, it’s true—as funny as this show is, it’s obviously not going to age well. Already one of its funniest jokes…having the super of their building be Gary Coleman, played by a female actor…is playing kind of awkwardly after Coleman’s untimely death, and it’s such a huge part of the show that re-writing around it would be enormously difficult. This is a show of the moment, whereas Wicked is a show for the ages, relying on nothing but references to another timeless masterpiece in order to work. Still, Avenue Q was by no means the least deserving Tony winner of the decade, and it still ranks as one of the finest musical comedies of its time.