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BWW Reviews: AVENUE Q Wins Over Sioux Falls

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"What do you do with a BA in English? What is my life going to be? Four years of college and plenty of knowledge has earned me this useless degree. I can't pay the bill yet, cause I've got no skills yet. The world is a big scary place. But somehow I can't shake, the feeling I might make, a difference to the human race!" These relatable and extremely insightful lyrics are the first lines in the musical Avenue Q, which can now be seen at The Sioux Empire Community Theatre in downtown Sioux Falls, and it is sung by a puppet. Throughout the show I was struck with just how relatable these puppets were. I am certain that it is because of the talent of the puppeteers.

Avenue Q is a fairly new musical having made its Broadway debut in 2003. That year it also won the Tony for Best Book, Best Original Score and Best Musical. Since its premier it has taken the world by storm with its mature themes and relatable topics. It is a coming-of-age parable addressing issues associated with entering the world of adulthood. Because of the use of puppets the audience is reminded of Sesame Street and the lessons that show instilled in us as kids, the ideas that we were special and we could do anything we put our minds to! As adults we are confronted with the reality that we may not be as special as we all thought we were, that everyone may be just as lost as were are and that things aren't just going to be handed to us. In the song, I Wish I Could Go Back To College, I looked around at my fellow audience members and saw heads nodding in agreement. "I wish I could go back to college, in college you know who you are. You sit in the Quad and think OH MY GOD, I am totally gonna go far!" Throughout the show you tend to forget that you are watching puppets and realize that you are in many cases watching your very own story. What DO you do with a BA in English?

Avenue Q at SECT is being performed in their arena theatre otherwise known as the Annie Zabel which is the smaller theatre space of the SECT. The audience is very up close and personal with the performers. This gives the actors NOWHERE to hide. Luckily for them, they didn't need to hide. This small ensemble cast was superb. Many of them played multiple characters and had very quick changes in and out of various puppets. Their characters were strong and well developed. I was especially impressed with Princeton, played by Elliott Graber and Kate Monster, played by Meg Hentges. These two actors were sweet, enduring and had me throwing my head back in laughter. One of the struggles I had throughout the performance was the sound that seemed to come from one lone speaker stage right. There were times that I was longing for the performers to open up and really belt it out but knew they couldn't for fear they wouldn't hear their cue. This cast held their own and managed to shine while performing to a backing track. Every one of them was talented and strong enough to deserve live music. All that they needed was a small combo hidden backstage right, it would have given the whole show a more professional feel. If I as an audience member with very good ears couldn't hear 30% of the backing track, neither could the actors. I in no way hold them at fault for missing some cues, the strongest of performers would have had the same problem.

I was also very impressed with the set, it was understated and clean. Avenue Q is set on and around the fictitious Avenue Q in New York City. The set gave you the feel of a city street but at the same time looked like place where puppets would reside, it was realistic with just the right amount of cartoony.

Two other performers that made me laugh each and every time were Ruth Sturm and Ashlee Reck who each played a multitude of characters with my personal favorite being The Bad Idea Bears. I loved these bears more than I probably should have. They were supposed to represent the friends we all have, the bad influence friends who no matter what happens will always make the WORST idea seem like the best. The way that these two performers manipulated their voices and gave the bears just the right amount of sugar and spice was brilliant.

Over all I loved the show. The only thing I would have wanted was for this show to be given what it was owed... the big stage. I realize that this show is risqué with adult themes and language but it is also just the type of edgy that this theatre community is dying for! It has already sold out for two shows and has added two more. SECT is growing, if the Broadway World regional awards weren't reason enough this show and the response it is getting should prove that even small ensemble shows with a PG-13 rating should be given the same support as say, Little Shop of Horrors. Trust the cast, trust the talent and let us see this show like it should be seen... on a proscenium stage with all the muscle of a main stage production.

JOB WELL DONE residents of Avenue Q. I adored your talent, your humor, your charm and your heart. Bravo Mr. Nesmith, you did it again.

RUN, do not WALK to get your tickets to this show... you will not be disappointed but please keep in mind it does have a PG-13 rating.

"Don't stress, relax, let life roll off your backs, except for death and paying taxes everything in life is only for now."

Call 605-360-4800 or visit www.siouxfallstheatre.com for ticket information


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From This Author Ellie Livingston

Ellie Alayne is an actor and teacher who has been working professionally for 10 years. A native of South Dakota who graduated with a Bachelors (read more...)