Tuesday, June 10, 2008
a brief musical moment
Avenue Q played its local swan song matinee at the Cadillac Palace Theater this past Saturday. It's very good, although you really do have to have seen Sesame Street and the Electric Company to quite "get" it -- but having seen it, I now understand why Wicked, despite losing the 2004 Tony Awards to Avenue Q for best book, best score and best musical -- an impressively complete rout, that -- has seriously outlasted it here as a road company. Avenue Q just lasted through its one-month run, while a few blocks away at the Ford Center's Oriental Theater, Wicked -- closing at the end of the year -- went for three years of overtime past the original scheduled run. Wicked is bizarrely depressing yet somehow uplifting, while Avenue Q is a happy bouncy musical about people seeming to overcome that throws a perky yet downbeat ending at you out of nowhere. Funny, and yet a general message of "Life sucks and you just have to give up your dreams for a while and deal like a grown-up (unless you luck into someone with ten million to spare)" just isn't likely to bring in the teenaged girl repeat audience the same way that the (seriously altered from the book) "girl empowerment" message of Wicked will -- or the grownups either, for that matter. And it's easier to accept, or even ignore, the fact that Elphaba doesn't precisely come to a good end because ... well, by god, she got her dream, more or less. She found her purpose. It may have killed her, but she found it. "Go for your dream, whatever the cost" is a much more palatable message than "give up your dream, it costs too much."
In the DVD documentary Show Business, they show the path to Broadway taken by both Wicked and by Avenue Q, as well as the ill-fated Taboo and Caroline, or Change. What they didn't show, and I wish they had because it must have happened, is the increasingly intense discussion between the composers and the producers of Avenue Q, who would have been looking at the final song and thinking, "Are you SURE you want to do this to this weirdly fun musical? Really? REALLY?" Because it really is seriously weird fun, and the moments just before the last song can only be described as Happy Endings Gone Seriously Weird, Yet Still Happy, and then the main character realizes that he hasn't yet found his purpose in life, and the entire cast sings a song that basically says, "Yeah, well, a lot of people never find their purpose, so suck it up and deal and settle like they do." And, well ... that's a freaky weird ending to stick on a show. It leaves you feeling sort of ... "Ha ha ha! Oh, my goodness, that was fun ... and now I never want to think about it again."
Posted by iain at 12:04 AM in category stage