Hellmonth. n. typically 28 consecutive days marked by almost unending piles of academic work, e.g. exams and papers. Or you may put it this way: For Imed 2016, it was March of 2010. Which, unbelievably, is over. A school year has come to pass since we first step foot on the catty (pun intended) grounds of UPM. One can even say that we are now on vacation mode. Only… we’re not. The monday after Easter, Math 100 finals lies waiting.
This school year, I was very, very fortunate – blessed, if I may – to have caught the local productions of four Tony Award winners for Best Musical: Spring Awakening (10-10-2009), Sweeney Todd (11-22-2009), Rent (02-20-2010), and Avenue Q (03-20-2010). Ah, the perks of living in Manila (no, that’s not what I mean... and dear brother, you had Lea's Cinderella and Joanna's West Side Story last year, so that makes you pretty blessed, too). I have to say, then, that the best among them would have to be – hands down – Avenue Q.
I can now confidently and proudly say that I fully understand why Avenue Q beat Wicked for the 2004 Tony for Best Musical.
Both of them are great musicals – epic, to put it simply. However, Wicked is only a musical. It’s about show-stopping songs, award-winning acting, a funny script, scenic backdrops, those lights, the stunning choreography, and everything else that one can say about grand Broadway queens.
What Wicked doesn’t have, though, is the in-your-face reality that Avenue Q purely subsists upon. Avenue Q, to say the least, is everything that people see, hear, and feel nowadays all in one show.
Wicked has that underlying message about accepting people for who they are – green or Animal; Avenue Q pokes fun at racism while speaking that unspoken truth that a racist exists in each of us. Wicked has that song about popularity, complete with the dumb-blonde, cheerleader archetype; Avenue Q fights back with a prostitute who’s proud to be one. Wicked has "I'm Not That Girl"; Avenue Q has "There's a Fine, Fine Line." Wicked has those faultless dance sequences and a green girl flying onstage; Avenue Q has live puppet sex in varying positions.
To use one of Princeton’s lines, “Hahahaha, You see?!”
The truth is, Avenue Q is something you just have to see. It’s life by way of puppets and perverts.
So what can I say about the fifth run of this Atlantis production? From Felix Rivera (I’m now a big fan) and Rachel Alejandro’s (used to be a nobody, now a somebody, for me) versatility in shifting between two totally different characters, to Aiza Seguerra (a personal revelation!), Calvin Millado, Thea Tadiar, Joel Trinidad, and Frenchie Dy’s equally outstanding performances - nothing but the highest praises. Perfect cast, perfect acting, perfect direction, perfect production.
Today, I say: I heart Avenue Q. Even though the show was only “for now,” I do believe that the production's “purpose” is to pop up in the local theater scene every few years or so.
Don’t get me wrong, though: I totally, down-to-the-conduction-system-of-my-sinoatrial-node adore, worship, and love Wicked – the best of Schwartz’s creations. (Enchanted comes second.)