Today’s review is brought to you buy the letter “F”; as in fun, fuzzy, foul mouthed puppets are fantastically funny in AVENUE Q at New Village Arts. Through July 1st you can find puppets that are more adult and from the street than they are of the kiddie Sesame variety.
In a musical that is as cheerfully impertinent as it is mature, the audience finds Princeton, an optimistic college grad (voiced by Zackary Scot Wolfe) struggling because the real world is not as welcoming or as easy to navigate as he had anticipated. Princeton started looking for a place to live at Avenue A and worked his way down until he found something he could afford. This is where he meets Gary Coleman yes, of “Diff’rent Strokes” fame (Cashae Monya) who is now a landlord and rents him an apartment on Avenue Q.
From there he meets his equally dysfunctional adult neighbors, Rod a neurotic and closeted Broadway musical fan (voiced by Wolfe), Nicky, Rod’s straight and mooching roommate (voiced by Tony Houck), the upstairs neighbor Trekkie Monster (also voiced by Houck), Brian a struggling comedian (Steven Freitas), and his fiancé a brusque therapist with no clients Christmas Eve (Ciarlene Coleman).
Princeton finds a kindred spirit in Kate Monster (voiced by Gerilyn Brault) who is a kindergarten teaching assistant. As they grow closer their relationship has to navigate a few curves, some of those curves belonging to Lucy T. Slut, a promiscuous and manipulative puppet (voiced by Melissa Fernandes).
Wolfe juggles voicing Princeton and Rod very well while keeping them distinct. Houck also impresses with his double duty as Nicky and the more Cookie Monster inspired growl of Trekkie Monster. It’s a difficult thing to keep multiple voices clear, emotive, and funny especially while singing, but both Wolfe and Houck are more than up to the task. Trekkie’s main song “The Internet is For Porn” by Houck standsout as a crowd pleaser.
Brault is a strong singer and performer as the sweet, and unlucky in love Kate Monster. Her first act closing song “There’s a Fine, Fine Line” is particularly poignant. Sometimes her facial expressions and acting were more pronounced then her actual puppeteering of Kate, causing the audience to go back and forth between them, but that will surely recede as the performances continue on.
Freitas is a charming slacker as Brian, while Coleman is funny as his fiancé who is a therapist with two master degrees and no tact. She shines in her joyful and unapologetic performance of “Everyone’s A Little Bit Racist” with the rest of the cast.
As Gary Coleman Cashae Monya is as bright as sunshine and her energy and commitment to engaging with the puppets in her fellow cast mates hands helps make them all the more realized. Fernandes has a way with Lucy’s seductive voice and an exaggerated bounce in her walk, playing into what Lucy’s last name stands for “sexually liberated, unapologetic, temptress.”
Jasmine January and Chris Bona are also comic stand outs as the “Bad Idea Bears” who provide the laughs and some questionable advice to the cast of characters that can seem so sensible in the moment.
With music and lyrics by Jeff Marx and Robert Lopez (the later of BOOK OF MORMON and FROZEN fame) this still comes off as relevant satire after 14 years. Written in the vein of those “Sesame Street” and “School House Rock” songs that originally taught us how to count or how a bill was made, these songs still feel applicable to those well past 25 years of age. The opening number of “What Do You Do with a B.A. in English?” could be sung by any number of current college graduates struggling to find jobs and pay off their student loans.
It could be that it is a much needed primer for the Sesame Street generations who need more advice, not less when entering their 20’s and trying to figure out what this whole “adulthood” thing is about. If it worked to get people ready for kindergarten maybe it can work again now for learning about bills, relationship, communication, and finding your purpose…right?
Director AJ Knox keeps everything moving so the energy never lags, and helps the cast feel fresh and spontaneous even though it had to take many rehearsals with Lynne Jennings the puppet coach to get the puppet movement and choreography amongst the entire cast just right. Supported by Music Director Nina Gilbert’s band, and on a cartoon cute set by Christopher Scott Murillo this show all comes together into an entertaining package.
With a cast that includes people, puppets, and monsters covering issues from getting a job, homosexuality, pornography, and some graphic puppet sex as well, this show is not for the kiddies or those with delicate sensitivities.
AVENUE Q may tackle some adult themes with some fuzzy, if frustrated characters, but it is feisty, funny, and as the final number “For Now” promises, only temporary so visit this street before is closes on July 1st.
Ticket and Show time information can be found at www.newvillagearts.com