It's a take-off of Sesame Street. Bring the muppets to the slums of NYC, sprinkle in a few F-bombs and other assorted R-17 words, and add adult themes (being gay and in denial, homelessness, poverty, racism, greed, sex without guilt, guilt without sex) and have it acted out by a combination of actors and actor-puppeteers with muppets, and you have Avenue Q.
The cast is amazing. The show is true to the original CD and then some. They have polished up everything, added a few extra bits, and filled in some missing pieces of plot. The set is a work of art as well as a technical marvel. In addition to the acting and music, flat panel video screens fly in from above the stage to use text and animations to illustrate a few key points in a parody of Sesame Street's format. The lighting is very good, though the follow spot did not always follow. Audio was a bit too treble-boosted and dropped out from time to time in the rear orchestra section where I was sitting. From their response, it is clear the folks up front didn't have this problem. Every actor had a body mike, but they were worn the way stage mikes should be - invisible to the audience.
The two hours flew by without me ever looking at my watch. Amazing. My only complaint is they had some of the actors assigned to more than one muppet, which made the everyone-on-stage finale awkward, and also meant that sometimes a "swing" puppeteer would operate the puppet while a different actor provided its voice, and that of another puppet on the other side of the stage. Kind of like having a passenger steer while you operated the gas and brake. Another three cast members would have been nice, and I doubt if it would have broken the budget. Having said that, the people who were doing double and triple duty were phenomenal.
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Avenue Q </em>runs mostly weekends through September 2 at the Orpheum Theater, 1192 Market Street, San Francisco. Tickets range from $30-$180. Check out the calendar here.