If you snuck into the theater as the lights went down, slid into your seat and listened for a moment, you might blurt out that Avenue Q is basically grown-up Sesame Street.
Rod, the anal-retentive, closeted gay, Republican Wall Street banker, is obviously the Bert to his sloppy-but-accepting roommate Nicky's Ernie. Cookie Monster may be the only creature who can understand the passion that Q's Trekkie Monster feels toward another type of confection — naked women. And meanwhile, Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx's songwriting transports listeners back to a time when rhyme-heavy lyrics and bouncy sing-song keyboard melodies ruled children's entertainment.
Then, roughly two minutes into one of the opening numbers, "It Sucks to Be Me," you would hear Jacqueline Grabois, as golden-hearted Kate Monster, sing, "I'm kind of pretty, and pretty damn smart / I like romantic things like music and art / And as you know I have a gigantic heart / So, why don't I have a boyfriend? Fuck! It sucks to be me!"
You'd quickly realize that Avenue Q isn't grown-up Sesame Street; it's Sesame Street for grown-ups.
It's main character Princeton (Brent Michael DiRoma) lamenting what the hell a Bachelor's in English is good for. (Please send any ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.) It's the show's recognition that relationships — hetero, homo and otherwise — are an absolute crapshoot; that there's a universal human ache for cosmic direction; and that, courtesy of ending number "For Now," this too shall pass: "Sex, is only for now! / Your hair, is only for now! / FOX News, is only for now!"
The musical itself, however, has been around a while. It debuted off Broadway in March 2003, and was on Broadway by that July. It stayed there until September 2009 (which, incidentally, is around the same time the touring version began).
Grabois first saw Avenue Q on Broadway, and fell for it instantly. By that time, she'd parlayed her education at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy into roles in Hairspray and Into the Woods; she was convinced that if given the chance, she could master the art of singing while controlling a puppet and really add something to an Avenue Q cast.
Sure enough, here she is at 27, touring with and playing a leading role in a three-time Tony Award winner. Besides Kate Monster, Grabois is the voice and swagger of slinky nightclub singer Lucy the Slut.
Perhaps she's heard of Lucy's recent bus-shelter ad ban?
"I have," Grabois says, laughing. "To be honest, there's so much violence and sex on TV, and then there's this puppet with some cleavage. It's crazy to me."
Like the puppet with some cleavage that she is, Lucy — through original writer Jeff Whitty — wasn't shy about sharing her first impression of the terrible news via e-mail. "When they said, 'We don't want to explain cleavage to 4-year olds,' my first thought was 'Are all of the babies in Colorado Springs bottle-fed?'
"... Getting banned from bus shelters is the new sex tape, mark my words."
As for the AQ crew, Grabois says an "any press is good press" mentality has won out. But that's not to say Lamar Advertising's decision pleases Grabois.
"It just sucks," she says, sounding a little like Kate Monster, "because I don't want people to get the wrong idea about Avenue Q, because it's an awesome show, it really is. Anybody that comes to the show ... they love it. They just love it."