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Avenue Q (2012)

a Musical
CATEGORY :
by Robert Lopez, Jeff Marx, and Jeff Whitty

COMPANY : Horizon Theatre Company [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Horizon Theatre Company [WEBSITE]
ID# 4220

SHOWING : January 13, 2012 - March 14, 2012

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

Winner of 7 Suzi Bass Awards including
Outstanding Production of a Musical

Smart, hilarious, risqué and full of heart, Avenue Q is Broadway's smash-hit Tony-award winner for Best Musical, Best Score and Best Book. The neighbors are nice on Avenue Q, the only address you can afford when you're fresh out of college, out of a job, or just trying to find your way in life. Princeton, Gary Coleman (yes, that one!), Christmas Eve and their newfound friends (played by talented actors and puppets) valiantly seek jobs, dates, and their ever-elusive purpose in life. An upbeat musical for grown-ups.


* Contains mature language and situations; not intended for children.


CAST & CREW LIST
Director Heidi Cline
Guitar Mark W. Schroeder
Princeton Nick Arapoglou
Christmas Eve Leslie Bellair
Kate Monster Mary Nye Bennett
Nicky Shane Desmond
Lucy the Slut Jill Hames
Gary Coleman Bernard Jones
Brian Brian Kimmel
Rod Dustin McLean Lewis
Rod J.C. Long
Nicky Jeff McKerley
Brian Matt Nitchie
Gary Coleman Spencer G. Stephens
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production
REVIEWS

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Second Impressions
by Dedalus
Monday, February 6, 2012
4.5
As a boost to the new year, Horizon Theatre is remounting its 2011 production of “Avenue Q.” Even though I liked it a bit more this time than last, I think I can get by with remounting my own 2011 review of the first outing.

“Avenue Q” is one of those shows that, upon first impression, should be dismissed as a cynical one-joke exercise in snarkiness. Supposedly an “adult” parody of “Sesame Street,” it has little to offer beyond its shocking content (Cursing! Drugs! Sex!) and its strict allusion to “Sesame Street” (Rod & Nicky = Bert and Ernie, Trekkie Monster = Cookie Monster, etc).

I mean let’s look it with an honest eye. “What do you do With a BA in English?(**)” appeals to the anti-intellectualism running amok these days, and was apparently written by someone who never went to college. “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist” is a cynical wallow in self-justification. “The Internet is for Porn” is … okay I’ll buy that one. The puppets are paper-thin characters who survive on stereotypes. And does (the late) Gary Coleman really need this much abuse?

And yet … And yet … And yet …

And yet, when I first heard the CD, I couldn’t stop laughing. And now that I’ve seen it on stage (again), I still can’t stop laughing. Maybe because I pre-date the “Sesame Street” generation (though I confess to getting through college with Grover and company), maybe because I have a healthy streak of snark myself, I respond well to the cynicism on view, and respond more to the healthy streak of heart that underscores the entire show.

To recap, Princeton is a recent college graduate moving to Avenue Q (because it’s all he can afford). There he meets all the residents who will be his friends – Gary Coleman, the building super (yes, THAT Gary Coleman), Rod and Nicky (two friends who share an apartment), Brian and Christmas Eve (two non-puppet characters – who says there’s no diversity here!), the winsome and lovely Kate Monster, and the reclusive (and single-minded) Trekkie Monster. Into Princeton’s world comes the “Bad Idea Bears” (a brilliantly mean conception), not to mention the what-you-see is what-you-get Lucy the Slut. Throughout the course of the play, Princeton is trying to find some purpose, and, well, each scene can be read as a little “lesson” in living on the grittier side of the tracks.

It doesn’t hurt that the Horizon has put together a cast of local favorites and put them through their puppetry paces to sell the show. Nick Arapoglou brings to Princeton a wide-eyed innocence that carries through his second act “bottoming out.” J.C. Long and Jeff McKerley bring to Rod and Nicky an originality that transcends the “Bert and Ernie” impersonations that too often saddle the actors who play the roles. Mary Nye Bennett is a sassy and strong Kate Monster, and her singing (especially in “There’s a Fine, Fine Line”) is one of the highlights of the show. I also liked the non-puppet characters played by Bernard T. Jones, Leslie Bellair, and Matt Nitchie. And, as expected, Jill Hames gives the Lucy the Slut puppet a “Special” life force that is funny and memorable.

Moriah & Isabel Curley-Clay have put them all in an impressively seedy back-street set (much sturdier than it was last year) that flows from scene to scene with little delay, and Heidi Cline McKerley directs it all with a pace and energy that creates a non-stop romp into the “dark side” of being a grown-up. I liked every minute of this show.

Now I can’t leave this review without commenting on some remarks I heard from some friends who were less-than-impressed with the performances. These were folks who did see the touring companies, and didn’t like the changes made to the show, particularly the lack of “Bert and Ernie” impersonations on the part of Mr. Long and Mr. McKerley. Admittedly, I’ve been known to unfavorably compare one production of a particular show with another version seen previously. In this case though, they seem to focus on something I DIDN’T like about the CD (and apparently the tours). We “get” that Rod and Nicky are supposed to be like Bert and Ernie – slavishly imitating those familiar voices is, to my ears, a distraction from the unique qualities brought to this show by these characters (for the record, Rod is firmly “in the closet” gay, and Nicky is not – his song “If You Were Gay” is one of the nicest, non-cynical and non-judgmental songs in the show). So, my response to such criticism is simply this – I liked the show, you didn’t! Neener Neener Neener! Since this is my second impression of the show, I can honestly say that my 2011 First Impressions were “on the money.”

So, I invite you all to take a trip the “Avenue Q,” where you will see the most interesting puppets doing the most interesting things to each other, and singing the most interesting songs with an energy that is contagious and infectious.

I can tell you how to get there!

-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)

** So, just what DO you do with a BA in English? Call me! I have one. And what I had to do to get it is one of the main reasons this song should rub me the wrong way. Why it doesn’t is just an interesting psychological phenomenon that has absolutely nothing to do with Denial. At least that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it!


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