Avenue Q is brilliant

Avenue Q
Original Kids Alumni
Producer/Director: Andrew Tribe
Music Director: Andrew Rethazi
Puppetographer: Ceris Thomas
Played by Sarah Ashby, Becky Blake, Nate Crocker, Rebecca Hall, Cassandra Hodgins, Phil Johnston, Christine McKeon, Andrea Meister, Matthew Roberts, Joshua Van Belois, Andrew Varkaris
Spriet Theatre
Until June 29

Raw, spicy and gamey: a piece of meat perhaps? No, just a slice of life according to the creators of Avenue Q. It’s the perfect recipe for the 2003 Broadway musical written by Robert Lopez (of The Book of Mormon fame) together with Jeff Marx. For this production Original Kids Alumni are not only actors but also masters of puppets who sing, dance and fornicate their way through the story of life’s expectations, disappointments, angst and personal post-modern crises.

Post-college realities set in as Princeton, a recent graduate, laments his fate as he ponders what to do with his life after having obtained his BA degree in English. He finds himself looking for affordable digs and decides to take up residence on “Avenue Q” located somewhere in New York City. The neighbourhood includes a full panoply of “plush and blood” characters, each with his/her story to tell. From Lucy the Slut (Becky Blake) to porn addict Trekkie Monster (Phil Johnston), to a female Gary Coleman (Rebecca Hall), to a frustrated comic Brian (Matthew Roberts) and his Japanese wife Christmas Eve (Christine McKeon), to a closeted Republican financier Rod (Andrew Varkaris) and his roommate Nicky (Joshua Van Belois), and to two “bad idea bears” (Sarah Ashby and Andrea Meister), the rollicking romance narrative between Kate Monster (Cassandra Hodgins) and Princeton (Nate Crocker) appears quite ordinary by comparison. The actors and their Sesame Street look-alike alter-egos are looking for a purpose to life, only coming to the conclusion that it is the here and now which can only be truly lived and everything else is up for philosophical speculation.

Producer/Director Andrew Tribe and Musical Director Andrew Rethazi have a one-way hit with Avenue Q. This production is ensemble theatre at its finest. Each character has been perfectly cast and as a result emotions intersect the human predicament poignantly and realistically, on both individual and collective levels. There are enough moral and racial admonishments to go around, not only for the cast but for audience members as well. The skill level of each actor is such that when his/her puppet speaks or performs it is difficult to separate the real from the surreal. The puppetry is an intriguing theatrical conceit which allows the spectator to feel less inhibited as, for example, we as voyeurs are privy to ongoing highly charged sexual situations. The Kama Sutra might want to consult these puppets for another idea or two!!

The concept for Avenue Q is a clever one. Parody, puppet and actor interaction, sidesplitting humour, memorable tunes and uproarious lyrics make for an unforgettable, gross or more to the point engrossing evening. There is no shortage of talent, skill, or creative direction in any part of this production. Heart and soul animate and pour out of each of the Avenue Q characters and their playful counterparts as they strive to entertain, and inform. And they all succeed quite brilliantly.

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Iain Paterson is a Musical Theatre Performer and founder of The Broadway Singers.