Even after seeing Avenue Q many times, it still makes me hoot with laughter. The R-rated puppet show, which spoofs Sesame Street characters as adults, is a riot, and it won Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical, and Best Original Score at the 2004 Tony Awards for good reason. It's still a favorite among audiences, and Footlite Musicals' staging delivers in every expectation. When you take into account that everyone in the show — cast and staff — is a volunteer, this is quite an achievement.
Under the co-direction of Kathleen Clarke Horrigan and Ed Trout, the cast — Phil Criswell (Princeton), Emily Schaab (Kate Monster), Damon Clevenger (Rod), Graham Brinklow (Nicky), Ryan England (Trekkie Monster), Zarah Miller (Lucy), Leigh Alexovich (Bad Idea Bear and Mrs. T), Dejuan Jackson (Bad Idea Bear and the "newcomer" at the end), Chris Meek (Brian), Nathalie Cruz (Christmas Eve), and Ervin Gainer (Gary Coleman)—is exceptional. Really, pointing out any musical numbers or scenes as "the best" isn't possible—every voice, every note is superlative. I was floored by the quality of the show. This also includes the orchestra, which often doesn't get the attention it deserves: conductor Kristen Cutler with musicians Ainsley Paton, Larry Molnar, Bill Musick, Amy Johnson, Jen Hallbert, Jimmy Wingget, Rhonda Collins, and Matthew Tippel.
The high-quality puppets the actors use were acquired through an Adopt a Puppet program, making them the equivalent of the ones used in professional productions. I only have two small quibbles that made me take off half a star. First: the bouncing some of the actors employ while the puppets "walk" jars the suspension of disbelief. Imagine children with puppets or dolls and the exaggerated movements they use when playing pretend. Second: the lighting was off the night I attended. Actors were often left in a shadow or a spotlight was off mark.
These minuscule details aside, you don't want to miss this show. And for those of you who know the music well, you will appreciate the substitution in the closing number for the original line that included "George Bush." I was anticipating what they would put in its place, and their choice is not just funny as hell but also apropos.
Footlite Musicals' Avenue Q,
Thursdays-Sundays through March 20,
prices vary, footlite.org