The bottom line
Youth Theatre Northwest's Avenue Q School Edition is a PG-13 production of the hit Broadway musical, playing at Studio 4 in the Seattle Center Armory from March 6–22. The show is unique in that puppets sing, dance and act alongside humans. As a hilarious, politically incorrect, somewhat edgy musical about young adults searching for the meaning of life after college, it is perfect for older teens.
The set is an urban apartment building, reminiscent of Sesame Street, complete with windows for actors and puppets to hang out of, stoops to sit on and doors to slam. A band is tucked into an alcove under the building, visible to the audience. The story centers on a group of recent college grads — both people and monsters — as they form relationships and try to figure out the meaning of life, in a world that's harsher than they had been raised to believe.
Watching this show requires some suspension of disbelief because the actors operating the puppets are fully visible on stage. Princeton, the new guy on the block, is looking for his purpose, as well as a job. The super of the building is Gary Coleman, the former child actor, hilariously played by Yasmeen Gaber. Three of the monsters are easily recognizable as parodies of Bert and Ernie (Rod and Nicky) and Trekkie Monster has a voice just like Cookie Monster and likes to eat things, just not cookies.
A key highlight of the tale is the laugh-out-loud song lyrics that bring to life the young adults' realization that adult life is more difficult than the TV shows from their childhood (and their parents) had reported. "It Sucks to be Me," "Everybody is a Little Bit Racist," "If You Were Gay," and "What Do You Do With a BA in English" are just a few of the examples.
The teen actors pull off the satire admirably, and show great skill at operating the puppets. Although all of the acting is wonderful, Madeline Dalton as Lucy, Connor McKenna as Princeton and Daniel Rep as Nicky are particlar standouts.
Parents should know
Although this PG-13 version of Ave Q is somewhat sanitized, it is still very edgy. The F-word was removed from the original script, but pretty much all other curse words are used. There is depiction of drinking, and one character misses an appointment due to a hangover. One of the characters has a one-night stand, but the sex is implied, not shown. Lots of heavy themes are explored, from racism to schadenfreude, albeit in a funny way.
I was perfectly comfortable with my 15-year-old seeing this show, but I wouldn’t have wanted her to see this at age 13. Parents know best what their teen is ready for, but I would recommend high-school age and up.
If you go ...
Where and when: Avenue Q School Edition plays through March 22 at Seattle Center Armory's Studio 4.
Tickets: $15 for adults, $10 for teens; buy online.
Tips: The theater is located on the fourth floor of the Seattle Center Armory on the north side of the building. Candy and water are for sale during intermission, and there are lots of dining options in the Armory before or after the show.The show runs about 2.5 hours with one 15-minute intermission.
Parking: You might get lucky and find free street parking like we did or check this link for surrounding Seattle Center parking options. Definitely allow plenty of time as there are always a multitude of events at Seattle Center.