a kate west review
music & lyrics by Robert Lopez
and Jeff Marx
directed by Jason Moore
choreographed by Ken Roberson
at the Ahmanson Theatre
Center Theatre Group
135 North Grand Ave, Los Angeles 90012
playing September 6 - October 14, 2007
contact 213-628-2772 or www.centertheatregroup.org
Winner of the 2004 Tony Award for Best Musical, Best Score and Best Book, adroitly clever "Avenue Q" is an inside look at the lives of the people on Avenue Q (supposedly in New York), of their loves, quarrels, hopes and dreams, just like in any other neighborhood, except some of them are puppets. You read that right. Like in Sesame Street, only the adult version. Direct from Broadway and Las Vegas, Los Angeles finally hosts the wildly popular show at the Ahmanson Theatre.
It all starts with Princeton (puppeted by Robert McClure) strolling into Avenue Q singing "What Do You Do with a B.A. in English?" What IS he going to do with his life now? Turns out he and the rest of the neighborhood aren't as happy as they could be ("It Sucks to Be Me" and "Purpose"). Princeton rents an apartment from former child star Gary Coleman (Carla Renata) and befriends a lovely little Monster named Kate (puppeted by Kelli Sawyer). They start dating after a few bumpy starts, such as Kate reprimanding Princeton that not all Monsters are related ("Everyone's a Little Bit Racist"). Their courtship is fairly standard ("Mix Tape", "You Can Be as Loud as the Hell You Want - When You're Makin' Love") but Princeton dumps her when he thinks she's getting in the way of him finding his ever-important and elusive purpose.
Meanwhile, roommates Rod and Nicky (puppeted by Robert McClure and Christian Anderson) struggle with their relationship when Nicky suspects Rod of being gay ("If You Were Gay") who vehemently denies it ("My Girlfriend, Who Lives in Canada"). Rod eventually kicks Nicky out, who ends up homeless and begging on the street ("The Money Song"). Asian stereotype Christmas Eve (Angela Ai) marries wanna-be comedian Brian (Cole Porter) and doles out sympathy and advice to everyone. Trekkie Monster (Christian Anderson) whacks off in his apartment ("The Internet Is For Porn") and life goes on. It all turns out alright, more or less. No give aways here; go see the show.
Interspersed with video monitors that show childlike animated lessons geared toward us cynical grownups, Director Jason Moore coordinates actors and puppets alike into show-stopping musical numbers by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx (original creator). The actors are incredibly versatile, jumping from character to person to character again, some of them even doubling up on puppets (including ensemble players Minglie Chen, Maggie Lakis, Seth Rettberg and Danielle K. Thomas). Special fun is Kelli Sawyer's scandalously voluptuous Lucy the Slut, who seduces Princeton, ends up in the hospital and then finds God, turning her into Lucy the Virgin. Costume Designer Mirena Rada fits actors and puppets with equally appropriate dressing and Rick Lyon's puppets themselves are divine. And Scenic Designer Anna Louizos' cute little set is straight out of your favorite childhood televion show.
Musical highlights include Rob and Nicky's elaborate fog-filled dream sequence ("Fantasies Come True"), Princeton dancing with singing moving boxes ("Purpose") and "Schadenfreude" (the German expression meaning delighting in the misfortunate of others) which Nicky sings joyfully with Gary Coleman. Robert McClure handles his main characters deftly, as does Kelli Sawyer who sings sweetly or sultry, depending on which adorable puppet she's wearing. The whole cast does a perfectly amazing job. You'll notice some obvious Jim Henson and Sesame Street influences, like Rod and Nicky looking suspiciously like Bert and Ernie and Trekkie Monster, the masturbator with a distinctly computer nerd like name.
Generation X-ers will love remembering our struggles as twenty-somethings in tiny New York apartments, barely a step up from "Rent's" East Village Bohemians (Broadway's mega-hit modern update on "La Boheme"). The songs are funny, upbeat and memorable and it's absolute great fun to see puppets acting like real people, having sex (and in all kinds of positions too!), getting drunk, getting cold feet (you'll love Princeton's visually hysterical nightmare sweats on committment) and doing everything else demonstrating human weakness. At least according to the cheering audiences every night. Just remember to leave the kids at home.
"Avenue Q" has not been authorized or approved in any manner by the Jim Henson Company or Sesame Workshop, which have no responsibility for its content."
The Broadway Soundtrack:
Avenue Q (2003 Original Broadway Cast)