AVENUE Q – Music and Lyrics by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx; Book by Jeff Whitty; Directed by Warren Sherrill; Musical Direction by Susan Draus. Produced by Miners Alley Performing Arts Center (1224 Washington, Golden) through September 17. Tickets available at 303-935-3044 or minersalley.com.
Having first opened on Broadway in 2003 and running for six years there, AVENUE Q then moved Off-Broadway for another ten years. It has toured the world, had a Las Vegas residency and innumerable productions locally. Why would anyone want to do the show again or see the show again?? Well, it’s been a while since it was done in town; there is always new talent playing puppets to be enjoyed; and maybe because we haven’t learned the bluntly honest lessons of the show just yet.
This production is a two-hour lesson in adulting based on the previous lessons taught by its predecessor SESAME STREET to children. While the earlier lessons were about the letters of the alphabet, AVENUE Q teaches that “The Internet is for Porn” and “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist.” These characters – puppets and humans – face the facts that there’s little you can do with a BA in English, that you can love and hate someone at the same time, that there’s a fine, fine line between reality and pretend; and it’s OK to laugh at someone else’s misfortune (“Schadenfreude”). These are lessons learned through the comic songs of composers Jeff Marx and Robert Lopez, who not content to rest on his laurels after putting this little skit together, went on to co-write THE BOOK OF MORMON. Not too bad.
It’s easy to absorb these subtle lessons in the hands of this talented cast. New to Denver is the sweet-faced Ava Francis as Kate Monster and Lucy the Slut. She’s a tiny brunette Barbie with a voice like Zendaya. Another new face is Keandra Hunt making her Colorado debut as Gary Coleman, the landlord of Avenue Q. Her cocky attitude and smart mouth are enhanced by her ease and confidence for being on stage. Emily Iwata Gerhard plays Christmas Eve, the novice shrink that helps Rod find his true self. These newcomers are bolstered by the familiar faces of Carter Edward Smith, Corey Exline, Michael Martinkus and David Otto. Michael’s voice gets a workout from the basso tones of Trekkie the Monster (“a person of fur”) to the whiney Bad Idea Bear that wants everyone to be an alcoholic in the making. The music is beautifully done and the relationships between human and puppet clearly delineated.
Because of the configuration of the Miners Alley stage, some maneuvering had to be done; sometimes the people wearing the puppets were not the ones saying the lines. Other times the people saying the lines of one of their characters were actually wearing the puppet of a separate character. It was a little disconcerting at first until you just say, “Oh, who cares? I know who is supposed to be talking” and go for it. It’s amazing how fast you give up looking at the human faces and concentrate on the puppets.
A most enjoyable production of an old favorite. There is a line from the show I’m going to have put on a T-shirt. “Crabby old bitches are the bedrock of this nation!” And wear it proudly.
A WOW factor of 8!!
An interesting bit of trivia: Jordan Gilber, the original Brian in the Broadway production, did two summers at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival back in the late 1990’s. His real-life personality was a cross between the Bad Idea Bear who whined his way through the summer and Trekkie who had to be a big slob. Ha – you thought I was going to say something about porn – didn’t you!!?