Sunday, June 17, 2012

Avenue Q

AVENUE Q, X-rated fun at Cain Park

What can be said about a delightful, thought provoking, Tony award winning, Sesame Street for adults? How about, it’s fun and you should go see it!

AVENUE Q, a production now on stage at Cain Park’s Alma Theatre, is an often hilarious and heartfelt story about Princeton, a bright-eyed college grad who comes to New York with his hopes, little money, and a trusting soul. He moves onto Avenue Q, a place populated by weird and wonderful characters that are part puppets and part human.

Through song, dance and humor we follow Princeton as he and his new found group of twenty-something friends, struggle to find jobs, dates, but most importantly, their ever-elusive, purpose in life. Among others, there’s Kat Monster, Christmas Eve, Trekkie Monster, and Gary Coleman, all searching for purpose and making commentary on education, politics, human sexuality, and life in general.

Winner of the triple crown of Tonys—Best Musical, Best Score and Best Book—the show has music and lyrics by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx, and book by Jeff Whitty. The satire is high, as represented by such songs as It Sucks to be Me, What Do You Do with a B.A. in English?, Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist, The Internet is for Porn, and I’m not Wearing Underwear Today. Doesn’t sound like the score from they typical musical theatre piece? Well, this is not the typical musical theatre script or score.

The Cain Park production, under the wise direction of Russ Borski, milks the script for all it is worth. The characterizations are generally clear, the staging crisp, songs are mostly well sung, most of the actors are easily understood, the orchestra backs up rather than drowns out the singers, and the dancing is delightful.

The wonderful puppet designs and fabrication are a local effort, executed by Terry Pieritz and Russ Borski, with the aid from puppet consultant Larry Nehring. After a while the stuffed-beings and their live partners meld into single beings.

Cherubic faced Jesse Markowitz is adorable as Princeton. He has a wonderful singing voice, moves well, and lights up the stage with his effervescent smile, twinkling eyes, and believable presentation. His rendition of Purpose is endearing. This is one very talented young man!

Patty Lohr gives a nice quality to Kate Monster. Her drunk scene is delightful. Sean Szaller adds humor as Nicky. John Paul Boukis, with his huge eyes flashing and high-pitched voice of fear, is nothing short of sensational as the closeted Rod. Todd Hancock, as the porn addicted Trekkie Monster, almost steals the show. Michelle Berkowitz and Zachary Lamb are properly mischievous as the Girl and Boy Bad Idea Bears. Dan DiCello (Brian) makes for a good, bad stand-up comedian. Joanna May Hunkins personifies every kid’s nightmare as Mrs. T, the kindergarten teacher.

Be aware, if you are a prude, that there is a vivid sex scene (yes, puppets having intercourse), lots of four-letter words, and some unpolitically-correct stereotyping. For the rest of us, those scenes and language, just add to the overall delightful outlandishness of the production.

(The show is dedicated to the memory of Paul Gurgol, who was to co-direct the show but died shortly before the start of rehearsals.)

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: The award winning AVENUE Q, Sesame Street for adults, gets a well-honed production at Cain Park. Show highlights include spot-on performances by Jesse Markowitz, John Paul Boukis and Todd Hancock. This is a must see for the more liberal minded.