By WILL HARPER
For anyone who grew up on Sesame Street, you’ll know what I mean when I say you haven’t lived until you’ve seen muppets doing it doggy style and 69ing each other. Avenue Q, the Tony Award winning musical from off-Broadway, is a delightfully crass sendup of Sesame Street. The centerpiece of the set is a model of a rundown New York brownstone populated by, among others, Kate Monster (Kelli Sawyer); a recent college grad, Princeton (Robert McClure); Internet-porn lover Trekkie Monster (Christian Anderson), two Ernie and Bert knockoffs, Nicky and Rod (the latter of whom is a closeted homosexual); and the building superintendent, former child actor Gary Coleman (played by a woman, Carla Renata). Think of it as Melrose Place with muppets.
The story begins with Princeton arriving on Avenue Q singing, “What do you do with a BA in English?” Something of a love story ensues between Princeton and Kate Monster, but the plot is almost superfluous. The songs are what give the show its bite, especially a hilariously politically incorrect number, “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist.” “Ethnic jokes might be uncouth,” the cast sings, “but you laugh because they’re based on truth.”
It takes some time to get used to the actors being onstage with their puppets (imagine if you could see Frank Oz standing next to Miss Piggy mouthing “Kermie”). But after acclimating, the actors’ presence enhances the production--the cast, by the way, is fantastic all around--adding comic expressions that even the most gifted puppet can’t make.
Through Sept. 2. Orpheum Theatre, 1192 Market St., San Francisco. Two hours, 10 minutes. Tickets: $30-$90. Call 512-7770 visit www.shnsf.com