What would happen if the beloved gang from PBS’s “Sesame Street” fell on hard times, moved to an undesirable neighborhood and started hanging out with the irreverent boys from Comedy Central’s “South Park”?

The end result would undoubtedly be “Avenue Q,” which opened Ogunquit Playhouse’s 79th season Thursday.

As patrons gathered before the show Friday night, it was clear many had no idea what was to come next.

“I think it has puppets in it,” was the general buzz rippling through the crowd.

Excitement was replaced by looks of shock and dismay for some as the musical got under way.

Be forewarned, “Avenue Q” does have puppets, but these are not the muppets of your, or your children’s or grandchildren’s childhoods.

And “Avenue Q” is definitely not “a magic carpet ride,” “where the air is sweet” and “everything’s A-okay.”

The musical is a sardonic parody conceived by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx. Now ages 36 and 40, respectively, the then-20-something writers felt disillusioned with life after college. They had grown up watching television programs that had led them to believe they were special and could be anything they wanted to be. But, the hard knocks of reality had left them realizing life wasn’t that easy.

The two combined their experiences to create a wickedly irreverent musical that pays homage to the programs they watched as children, all the while devilishly mocking the ideals those programs touted.

There are obvious similarities to characters such as Bert, Ernie and Cookie Monster, and one of the primary human characters is child-star Gary Coleman, who was known for his role as Arnold Jackson on “Diff’rent Strokes.”

Be prepared for profanity, full puppet nudity (waist up), overt puppet sex and flippant discussions about controversial topics such as racism, homosexuality, pornography and schadenfreude.

In addition, “Avenue Q” is chock-full of impishly impudent songs with titles such as “It Sucks to Be Me,” “What Do You Do With a B.A. in English,” “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist” and “The Internet Is for Porn.”

Is the production jaw-droopingly shocking at times and likely unsuitable for children under age 17? Absolutely, which is what partly makes it so fiendishly fun. But, it’s also a technical marvel to watch.

In total, the production features 62 puppets (created by Rick Lyon), playing 10 different roles.

Four actors, with the help of puppet wrangler Carrie Miller and puppet captain Zach Trimmer, expertly operate the 10 puppet characters. Unlike typical puppeteers, such as on “Sesame Street,” the performers are visible to the audience and act out the roles with their puppets, as if they are one.

All must sing, dance and act, all the while performing precision puppeteering that allows the audience to believe the characters are real.

Adding to the complexity, some puppets require two puppeteers to operate them and each actor operates multiple puppets, requiring another actor to step in and operate the second puppet when two are in the same scene.

Even when the actor isn’t operating two puppets at once, he continues to provide both voices, switching back and forth seamlessly. And, in the finale, each puppeteer operates two puppets simultaneously.

To bring “Avenue Q” to life on the Ogunquit stage, the playhouse has cast original Broadway “Avenue Q” member Howie Michael Smith to reprise his roles as Princeton and Rod. Fellow puppeteers Ashley Eileen Bucknam (Kate Monster/Lucy the Slut), Chris Cooke (Nicky/Trekkie Monster/Bear/others) and Lexy Fridell (Mrs. T/Bear) reprise their national tour and off-Broadway roles as the rest of the puppet cast.

Zonya Love (Gary Coleman), Rebecca Larkin (Christmas Eve) and Jayson Elliott (Brian) lend their talents as the three human characters.

Those looking to see an old-fashioned musical probably won’t like this production and may find it offensive. But for those who appreciate a good dose of off-color humor, “Avenue Q” offers a hilarious and entertaining alternative to the norm.

Either way, “Avenue Q” is unforgettable.

April Boyle is a freelance writer from Casco. She can be contacted at:

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