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Original Broadway Cast: Avenue Q

Album: Avenue Q
Label: Victor

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The endearingly smutty musical Avenue Q opened off-Broadway earlier this year, and it quickly moved on-Broadway, thanks to critical and audience raves for Rick Lyon's cute puppet designs and Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx's bouncy score, a self-conscious pastiche of PBS kiddie shows and A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum-era Stephen Sondheim. The musical's plot follows a neighborhood of postgraduate humans and puppets trying to balance careerist fumblings with a search for companionship. Some of that story comes through on the cast album, but mostly, the record spotlights the show's chipper, unimpeachable life lessons on songs like "What Do You Do With A B.A. In English?," "Everyone's A Little Bit Racist," and "The Internet Is For Porn" (which has a Trekkie monster puppet growling, "Grab your dick and double-click for porn, porn, porn!"). As funny as its central gimmick is, Avenue Q isn't really about puppets saying dirty things. Instead, the heart of the piece lies in more plaintive numbers like "Mix Tape," in which a female monster puppet tries to interpret what her crush's mix tape means: She's encouraged by the inclusion of "My Cherie Amour," but flummoxed by "Fat Bottomed Girls." And in the moving, funny "I Wish I Could Go Back To College," the cast reflects on "sitting in the computer lab / 4 a.m. / before the final paper is due" and pines for its dorm rooms and finding "a message in dry-erase pen on the door." Catchy and smart, Avenue Q is Sesame Street for adults who grew up on Sesame Street, and it satisfies their vague regret that the ongoing education of real life is rarely summarized in memorable songs by colorful creatures.