All of us have shows we haven’t gotten around to seeing yet. We all have our lists- yes, yes, we’ll board a Bolt Bus to NYC soon, gotta get to that one, hear it’s good. Problem is, though, wait too long and eventually the Broadway show closes, the road shows peter out, and we’re stuck waiting for a good local production of a show we should have caught long ago.
Then your kid’s middle school does that show. And you go see it. And you never quite get the idea of what that Tony Award was all about in the first place.
If you’re not careful, that list of OughtaHaveSeenItDoneByPros can grow to be pretty long. But once in awhile, you’re in luck: Constellation Theatre has come along with its utterly smashing production of Avenue Q.
Now, I’d like to interrupt my review here and suggest that you stop reading this and get tickets. I mean it. They’re nearly sold out as it is, and you are so going to kick yourself if you miss this one. Back to the review.
Folks, the show is just all that and a bag of chips. Even before the show begins you’re impressed: the tiny space at Source features a splendid set by designer A. J. Guban. The detail is terrific, with New York tenements’ Gothic arched doorways, brickwork, wrought iron stairs and balconies, and a superbly painted pavement with curbs and believable ‘metal’ manhole covers- someone sure knows how to use a router and a paintbrush to great effect. It’s all the more impressive given that the audience sits less than ten feet from the stage. There’s a full band back there, too, hidden by the beautifully painted scrim- a wonderful use of such a small space.
The cast is equally terrific, from the leads to the smaller roles (one person plays just a hand at one point, and even she rocked that hand). Standouts for me (you will undoubtedly have your own favorites, for everyone is good) were Katy Carkuff as Kate Monster, Matt Dewberry as Princeton, Alex Alferov as Nicky, and Justine ‘Icy’ Morale as Christmas Eve. Vaughn Ryan Midder threatened to walk away with the entire evening each time he appeared as Rod (he also plays Trekkie Monster) and, in a smaller role, as Bad Idea Bear, Christian Montgomery shows he is someone to watch in the future- this guy can turn a wink into a leer into all eyes on him.
Hmm, I’ve just realized I mentioned nearly the whole cast as standouts; well, anyone I didn’t mention was killer too. Not a bad apple in the bunch.
Puppetry was good as well- kudos to Matthew Aldwin McGee, as assistant director/puppetry coach. Direction by Allison Arkell Stockman was crisp and clear, and a special mention should go to the creative choreography of Rachel Leigh Dolan- you know you’re doing something right when some cardboard boxes go all Busby Berkley on you.
October 22 – November 22
1835 14th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20009
2 hours, 15 minutes with 1 intermission
Tickets: $30 – $55
Wednesdays thru Sundays
Details and Tickets
My complaints on opening night were few- at more than a few key moments in the show, music was far too loud, making clever lyrics (and punchlines) all but indecipherable; let’s hope that gets adjusted over the next show or two.
The show won a Tony for Best Musical back in 2004, and you can see why. Avenue Q isn’t just a simple takeoff of Sesame Street- it’s really an exploration of who we are when we’re just starting out, and finding out what the world is, and who we become in the process. If that sounds serious, well, yes, it is, but it’s wrapped up for us in a joyful package of songs and lyrics that make us want to think hard about ourselves as we hum along.
All that. Bag of chips. Go see it while you can.
Recommended for ages 16 and up due to strong language and puppet sex scenes. Really, puppet sex scenes, so: not for the kiddies.
Avenue Q . Book by Jeff Whitty . Music and Lyrics by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx . Directed by Allison Arkell Stockman . Featuring Alex Alferov as Nicky, Jenna Berk as Bad Idea Bear, Mickey Cafarelli as Brian, Katy Carkuff as Kate Monster, Matt Dewberry as Princeton, Eben K. Logan as Gary Coleman, Vaughn Ryan Midder as Rod/Trekkie Monster, Christian Montgomery as Bad Idea Bear; Justine ‘Icy’ Moral as Christmas Eve; Emily Zickler as Lucy/Mrs Thistletwat . Assistant Director/Puppet Coach/Properties Designer: Matthew Aldwin McGee . Music Direction: Jake Null . Choreography: Rachel Leigh Dolan . Costumes: Kara Waala . Scenic Design/Lighting Design: A. J. Guban . Sound Design: Gordon Nimmo-Smith . Technical Director: Mike Salmi . Stage Manager: Cody Whitfield . Produced by Constellation Theatre Company . Reviewed by Jill Kyle-Keith.