Theatre Review: “Avenue Q” Smash-Hit from CityRep
By Ryan Echols and Elizabeth Hurd Published: February 24, 2016 Updated: Feb 24, 2016
“Avenue Q,” which played recently at Oklahoma City Repertory Theatre, is a multiple award-winning show of Broadway puppet/human mashup fame. With Best Score, Best Book, and Best Musical under its belt, there is no question of the caliber Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx (Music and Lyrics) along with Jeff Whitty (Book) bring to the stage.
Much of the allure in “Avenue Q” came from the use of puppets alongside actors. While this might have taken a moment to get used to, the convention of puppets and humans coexisting quickly became accepted and added to the lovely intricacies of the show.
The story was about a young man grappling with real life as he faced the obstacles a recent college graduate confronts in today’s society. Despite his lofty dreams and aspirations, he first had to find a place to live. Beginning on Avenue A and working his way to cheaper apartments, he finally found a shabby abode way out on Avenue Q. The superintendent was Gary Coleman and the girl next door was smart, sweet, and charming … even though she was a monster. Our hero, Princeton, settled into life on Avenue Q, finding and losing his first job, meeting and loving the girl next door, Kate Monster, and making lifelong friends with neighbor and landlady Christmas Eve and her fiancé, Brian. His experience was reminiscent of the rocky start many a young person has in life, appealing especially to those who grew up with Sesame Street – “Avenue Q” being a sort of adult parody of the long running children’s show.
“Avenue Q” was rated R, but while the captivatingly unusual combination of youthful indiscretions and puppetry might have been excessively shocking at times, as long as patrons came prepared for a bit of adult fun there was no shortage of truly hilarious humor. The show was certainly irreverent and explicit, walking a thin line between offensive and downright hysterical; and, while the show certainly had both, under the expert direction of Shawn Churchman, “Avenue Q” never ceased to get a laugh. Churchman pulled the audience into the story allowing them to relate to all the characters as they laughed at their familiar trials and tribulations. Scenic Designer Ben Hall created an atmosphere that was both realistic and comfortable. Furthermore, the entire technical group made the production extremely rich and professional. Most importantly, the cast contributed with excellence in acting and precise, deliberate puppetry.
Aaron Boudreaux played the young hero, Princeton, a handsome fellow made of felt and fur. Boudreaux also portrayed Rod, an entirely different sort of fellow also made of felt and fur. The puppets as well as their manipulators were visible to the audience, and it was easy to see in the performance the absolute characterization in physicality and expression the actors took even when performing through puppet manipulation.
Steph Garrett was the beautiful love interest, Kate Monster, and she also portrayed Lucy the Slut. Her distinctions were sharp, and her immersion in both roles was just as evident. These two worked well together in puppetry and person. Erik Schark and Kassiani Menas brought to life several other characters in puppetry along with the help of Sheridan McMichael and Nancy Ross. There were three wonderful characters that were acted without puppets, yet they related to the puppets in the show as well as any person. Their characterizations were also wonderful. Ashley Mandanas as Christmas Eve, Jon Haque as Brian, and Denise Lee as Superintendent Gary Coleman brought a vibrancy to the hilarity.
“Avenue Q” was a fantastic comedy as well as a wonderful musical that anyone appropriate for the R rating surely loved.