Avenue Q is not a musical you might catch at you local civic light opera. It is currently playing at the Pantages in Hollywood and it a total delight. The reason you will not see this in local venues is that the cast consists of people and puppets. The humans must be trained to not only handle the puppets but also to act, sing, and dance, all the time reflecting the puppet’s state of being.
The cast utilizes several different styles of puppets: simple hand puppets, single rod puppets (actor controls head and one arm), and double rod puppets (actor controls head and holds the two rods in his hand, dropping one when needed). Actually the simple hand puppets aren’t so simple, often requiring two actors to animate.
On top of this actors share characters, trading off, and each actor owns the voice of two or more characters. There are three human characters as well, a would-be comedian, his Asian girlfriend, and a black actress playing the actor Gary Coleman. Surprisingly the audience had no trouble accepting the character despite the fact that Coleman died a few years back.
Avenue Q was written by Jeff Whitty, with music and lyrics by Robert Ward Lopez and Jeff Marx. The script and the lyrics are hilarious, “What do you do with a BA in English?”, “The Internet is for Porn,” “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist.” The creators were moved to tell the story of a young man (Princeton), right out of college, who can only afford to live on Avenue Q, presumably the worst or nearly the worst block in New York. The apartment complex he moves into is full of colorful characters, like Kate Monster, Trekkie Monster, and Mr. and Mrs. T Bear (the true “bad news bears” who always appear to lead our hero down the wrong path), Rod (a closeted homosexual), his slovenly and straight roommate Nicky, the Asian girl named Christmas Eve, her unfunny boyfriend Brian, and as mentioned before, Gary Coleman, who is the super, having fallen on hard times. There is also the local sexpot, Lucy.
David Colston Corris plays Princeton and Rod, Ashley Eileen Bucknam plays Kate Monster and Lucy, and Michael Liscio plays Nicky, Trekkie Monster, Bear, and others. These versatile and tireless actors must keep total concentration so as not to get lost and to keep track of all the moves and various voices.
This is a totally joyous musical, well deserving of its three Tony Awards, including Best Musical. The show started Off Broadway, moved to Broadway, moved back to Off Broadway, and has spawned several international and two national companies. Avenue Q plays at the Pantages in Hollywood until March 6. Run to the box office because it’s a short run.