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5 ways ‘Avenue Q' woos

There are at least five remarkable things about “ Avenue Q,” and only one is dirty.

1 The show at the Performing Arts Center this week won three 2004 Tony awards – best musical, best score and best book of a musical – and beat “ Wicked” in each of those categories.

2 It's a daring choice for the PAC, capping a safe season (“ Stomp,” “ 12 Angry Men,” “ Wicked”) with a play provocative enough that season subscribers were allowed to opt out of buying it if they chose.

3 It's by newbies. Book writer Jeff Whitty and composer/lyricists Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx had never written a Broadway score before this one. (And it was originally put together as a TV pilot.)

4 Its owners decided not to tour it right away. Instead, they signed with casino owner Steve Wynn for an exclusive run in Las Vegas, starting in August 2005. (Not that this deal was a blockbuster: The New York Times reported the show played to two-thirds capacity for eight months in the 1,200-seat theater.)

5 And most important, it's about puppet lust.

Oh, there are other themes: learning to accept people as they are, identifying our own shortcomings, dealing with dilemmas from racism to homophobia to depression.

The show, which includes both human actors and oversized puppets, is set in a New York neighborhood where former child star Gary Coleman (played by a woman) is a happy landlord.

But the key words are (let us repeat them, so you don't bring the kids): PUPPET LUST.

Any show that features characters such as Lucy the Slut and porn-obsessed Trekkie Monster – not to mention an intimate moment one reviewer described as “a puppet sex scene played to a strobing rock number “ – is focused on what Shakespeare called “making the beast with two backs.”

(Or, in this case, with two rods up the backs.)