BWW Reviews: AVENUE Q at Olney Theatre Center - Just Plain Wonderful
It's been a decade since I first saw AVENUE Q on Broadway. While I thoroughly enjoyed the original cast, I enjoyed seeing the Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx musical even more at the Olney Theatre Center deftly directed by Olney's Artistic Director Jason Loewith. It could be on that on Broadway, we were sitting high up in the balcony versus sitting in the intimate Olney Theatre. Add to this, the incredibly talented cast, a great six piece orchestra under the baton of Christopher Youstra who makes the marvelous music come to life. He even adds to the fun holding puppets on two occasions.
AVENUE Q has been labeled "Sesame Street" for adults. Yes, it is full of puppets. How many? The production has more than 35.
The neighborhood is similar to that in LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS. It has seen better days. There's an empty storefront (Hooper's Deli), a townhouse for rent, and two townhouses (or row houses) that do have occupants and lots of windows which open and shut in the tradition of the televison comedy "Laugh In" with puppets singing and cracking jokes from on high. Nice job by Set Designer Court Watson.
The characters include Princeton looking for a place to live and sings "What Do You Do with B.A. In English?" There's Brian who is unemployed and wants to be a late show comedien and his friend Kate Monster who is single and they sing the wonderful anthem "It Sucks to Be Me." Brian's fiance is Christmas Eve who is a Japanese therapist and sings what should be the EEOC's theme song, "Everyone's a Little Bit Racist". There's Trekkie Monster (NOT related to Kate Monster) who insists that "The Internet is for Porn". There are the delightful but sly Bad Idea Bears that get Kate and Princeton drunk, send them home where they "get it on". You haven't seen anything until you see two puppets in flagrante delicto. Kate sings one of my favorite songs, "There's a Fine, Fine Line" between love and a waste of time. There's even a song sung by Gary Coleman (yes, that Gary Coleman) called "Schadenfreude"
It's the music that has made it the hit it has become. There are many wonderful tunes. I so enjoy listening to the CD of the Original Broadway Cast.
One of the many clever touches is the lighting for the wedding of Brian, who is Jewish, and his Japanese wife, Christmas Eve. They include Asian food containers with lights inside and lit Chanukah dreidals with Hebrew letters on the sides. The male puppets and the men even wear Jewish skull caps. And Christmas Eve stomps on glass at the end of the wedding ceremony. An interesting touch.
Noted local actor Bobby Smith is the Associate Director and is responsble for the clever choreography. Andrew F. Griffen is resonsible for the clever lighting, JJ Kaczynski provides fun animation, and Max Krembs has every actor sounding great.
The cast is just plain superb: Evan Casey (Brian), Kelle Knighten Huogh (Gary Coleman), David Landstram (Bear), Sam Ludwig (Princeton/Rod), Awa Sal Secka (Ensemble), Stephen Gregory Smith (Nicky/Trekkie Monster, Tracey Stephens (Mrs. T/Bear), Janine Sunday (Christmas Eve), and Rachel Zampelli (Kate Monster/Lucy).
While I have to admit I was extemely upset when AVENUE Q bested WICKED to win the 1994 Tony Award for Best Musical, I've gotten over it.
AVENUE Q has been EXTENDED until July 20. For tickets, call 301-924-3400 or visit www.olneytheatre.org.
Get Ready for More Musicals Next Season
The Olney 2015 season has just been announced and is chock full of musicals: GODSPELL, CAROUSEL, GUYS AND DOLLS, and even THE PRODUCERS. Two other highlights are Arthur Miller's THE PRICE and Noel Coward's HAY FEVER.