Tony-winning 'Avenue Q' plays Tampa's Straz Center Aug. 9-19

By STEVE SPEARS

Times Staff Writer

Look at those adorable puppets. Just like those furry little friends we all grew up with on public television. And this musical has such an innocent name too! So, dear parents, you're thinking, "Why not take my kids to see Avenue Q?"

Because there's enough adult material in this coming-of-age musical to not only make Elmo blush, but perhaps enough to make him steal your wallet, leave home and become a tattoo artist on the other side of Sesame Street.

Avenue Q — winner of a three Tony Awards, including best musical — is filthy. But it's also incredibly funny — for a mature audience.

The story follows a recent college grad named Princeton who moves into a dumpy New York apartment on Avenue Q. There he laments his existence — so eloquently expressed in the signature song It Sucks to Be Me — while meeting such colorful (and plush) characters as Kate (the cute girl next door), Rod (a sexually confused Republican) and the Bad Idea Bears (self-explanatory). Hmm, you're not convinced.

Okay, here are three things in Avenue Q that would make Big Bird lay an egg.

1THE TUNES: Avenue Q won a Tony for best original score for ditties that sound straight off any kids program, except for those pesky lyrics and titles like Everyone's a Little Bit Racist, Internet is for Porn and I'm Not Wearing Underwear Today.

2THE SEX: They talk sex, sing about sex — and, of course — they commit full-on puppet sex. We can't say anymore here without the fur really flying.

3GARY COLEMAN: Yes, a character posing as the former star of TV's Diff'rent Strokes appears as the superintendent of Avenue Q — even after the actor died in 2010 at age 42. What chu talkin' about, Avenue Q?

But, hey, on the sunny side of things, M.A.D. Theatre's production of Avenue Q will rent the puppets from local actor and puppeteer Joel Gennari, rather than the traditional source of Music Theatre International out of New York.

And, as a fundraiser, M.A.D. is allowing the puppet cast to be "adopted" by members of the audience for each show.

For $50, the adoptive "parents" get preferred seating and a photo with their "child" and puppet handler.

Just make sure everyone has their underwear on first.

BAD IDEA BEARS

ROD

TREKKIE

NICKY NORMAL

PRINCETON

LUCY

BAD IDEA BEARS

>>if you go

Avenue Q

M.A.D. Theatre's production opens tonight and runs through Aug. 19. Shows are

8 p.m. today and Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at Shimberg Playhouse at David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts, 1010 N MacInnes Place, Tampa. $20. (813) 229-7827 and www.strazcenter.org.

Tony-winning 'Avenue Q' plays Tampa's Straz Center Aug. 9-19 08/08/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 8, 2012 5:30am]

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