Friday, September 11, 2009

Everything In Life Is Only For Now

After I graduated college in 2004, I did what so many English majors have done before me and will continue to do after me, I moved to New York City. I figured my degree from a well-known university would be enough to get me a decent job, though I had no contacts and not even a place to live. I crashed with a friend while I looked for an apartment and a job, and ended up working at Starbucks and the Virgin Megastore in Times Square while I looked for something better. I could only afford to see shows via rush or lottery and I was desperate to see Avenue Q, which had recently won the Tony for best musical. I tried that lottery every time I was free to see the show. Sometimes I went with a friend, and sometimes alone if nobody could join me. The lottery guy started to recognize me (if I remember correctly, his name was Josh and he also went to college in Boston). Finally, sometime in October, after I don't know how many times, my name was called and I got a front row seat to Avenue Q for only $21.50.

I was expecting to love the show, but I didn't realize just how much it would mean to me. One of the first songs was called "What Do You Do With a B.A. in English?" I felt like the show was written for me. In the show, Princeton moves to New York with a B.A. in English and tries to find his purpose. There are so many universal truths from "Everyone's a Little Bit Racist" ("Ethinic jokes might be uncouth, but you laugh because they're based on truth.") to "For Now." ("Everyone's a little bit unsatisfied. Everyone goes 'round a little empty inside.") I teared up during "I Wish I Could Go Back to College." That song summed up everything I missed about college so perfectly. ("In college you know who you are. You sit in the quad, and think, 'Oh my God. I am totally gonna go far.'")

I recently interviewed original cast member Jennifer Barnhart for TDF and she had so many great stories that there wasn't room for in the article. One in particular was about a 10-year-old girl who came to see Avenue Q. At the stage door, Barnhart asked her what her favorite part was and the girl said "I Wish I Could Go Back to College." This obviously took Barnhart by surprise, but the girl said she could relate to the song because she wished she could go back to kindergarten. It just goes to show how universal the themes are.

I saw the show for a second time a few months later with family, but I haven't been back since. I haven't felt the need to return because my memories of it are so perfect, but I still listen to the CD all the time. Tomorrow, September 13, Avenue Q will close and Broadway will lose a brilliant original musical, a rarity these days. It had a nice long run, and it did so much more than what was expected--it beat Wicked for the Tony and ran for 6 years. Not bad for an adult musical with puppets.

Edit: At last night's closing (I wasn't there, but I heard about it today), Kevin McCullum, one of the producers, announced that Avenue Q would be transferring to the New World Stages. Tickets are already on sale.


Kat said...

I really love this post. I always love hearing about why people connect so strongly with particular shows, but I find it even more fascinating when the show in question isn't one that a lot of people relate to in that way. A lot of my friends who love the show never got past the "haha, puppets swearing" part of it, and as you eloquently point out, there's a lot more going on than that.

What do you think about it moving off-Broadway?

Linda said...

Thank you so much, Kat. I'm actually excited it's moving off-Broadway because I was regretting not seeing it again, and now I can. I think it's a smart move on the part of the producers. Altar Boyz has done really well at New World Stages, and I think Avenue Q could do the same. But only time will tell.

Kat said...

I definitely think it's very, very smart from a producing standpoint. I just worry that if other shows start doing this, it'll hurt shows that use off-Broadway to get to Broadway, as well as ones that are ultimately off-Broadway shows. But I do like how Avenue Q's move makes it clear that there is life after Broadway.