Little Theater of Alexandria Avenue QBy Xandra Weaver • Jul 31st, 2013 • Category: Reviews
Little Theater of Alexandria: (Info) (Web)
Little Theatre of Alexandria, Alexandria, VA
Through August 17th
2:00 with intermission
$22-$27 (Plus Fees)
Reviewed July 28th, 2013
Raucous, rowdy, raunchy, and a total blast, Avenue Q is now at a theater near you! Run, don’t walk, to get your tickets to see Little Theater of Alexandria put on this smashing success of a show. The musical itself won a triple Tony in 2004, and this production lives up to the legacy.
It bills itself as a “Sesame Street for Grownups,” wherein we follow our main characters through the exciting life of a grown up, with adventures like “getting a place to live,” “finding a job,” “hiding from bill collections,” and “deciding whether to spend money on food or booze.” The characters are a mix of both human and a variety of different puppets, who are all here to teach the audience lessons about what purpose life has to offer for each of them.
Princeton is a recent college grad, who finds Avenue Q while searching for affordable living and a purpose in life. Kate Monster knows what purpose she has in life, but every obstacle she faces seems to push her farther and farther away from her goal of owning a school to teach monsters. Trekkie Monster is a furry pervert who lives upstairs, who has no particular goals, but lots of time to teach the audience about his addiction to porn. Rod and Nicky are roommates who have to navigate the waters of same-sex attraction, and Christmas Eve and Brian are the human couple who coexist with the puppets.
The beautifully crafted puppets are voiced by enthusiastic and eager actors dressed in black clothes. Their faces are expressive as they voice the characters, and half the show is watching these talented performers add to the story with their bodies as well as their puppeteering. The set is full of windows and doors, and portrays a run down New York City street wonderfully, allowing all the action to take place on the cracked doorsteps and rusty fire escapes of a poor alleyway neighborhood. Every once in a while, a Sesame Street like video sequence will run on a faded electronic billboard placed at the top of the set.
Sean Garcia as Princeton and Rod was funny and displayed a Broadway quality voice. He switched craftily between the two characters, often voicing both on stage in turns, and only occasionally muddling the two different ranges. The bright and talented Kristina Hopkins was a very refreshing and entertaining Kate Monster, taking just enough cues from the original Broadway soundtrack to sound memorable, and yet keeping the character sweet and enjoyable to listen to (in a part that can quickly turn harsh and shrill if the right voice isn’t found for the character). The best of the bunch, however, was Matt Liptak in two main roles and one minor one, as the puppets Trekkie Monster, Nicky and the Bad Idea Bear. Liptak was an absolute joy to watch, as he inhabited the characters so entirely. His face seemed to radiate enjoyment of his parts, and he kept all three characters very cleanly separated by voice and body movement.
The orchestration was fantastic, and kept up the energy of the show well. There was a small problem of microphone levels being different for sound effects and human actors, versus the loud and clear mikes put on the puppeteers, but everything was still audible. Also some of the human actors could have amped up their enthusiasm level a bit more to match the energy radiating from their puppeteered counterparts. Chief of this vein was Aerika Saxe, whose stunning and powerful voice needed a stronger, more assertive personality to sell the character of has-been Gary Coleman.
Overall, this production had very few flaws. It won much of the audience over to its views on adulthood and growing up, despite or maybe because of its bawdy and crude style, which both mocked and venerated the source material of children’s educational programming.
Oh, and this review was brought to you by the letter “M” as in “for Mature audiences” and the numbers “6” and “9” for puppet nudity hijinks.
I started kindergarten during the first season of “Sesame Street.” I clearly remember Ms. Perry pulling the AV cart before the class at Quander Road Elementary and announcing that we would be watching an hour of television. Of course, I didn’t realize it at the time, but that hour was preparing me for the lessons (both scholastically and socially) that were coming my way. I was learning to read, to count, to make new friends and to open my mind. I was told I was special and could do anything I dreamed of doing. Everything after that, more or less, fell into place. Lessons learned became building blocks for lessons to be learned. I had all the tools I needed for the next 16 years of my life. THEN IT HAPPENED…
Suddenly I was a young adult, and, like the characters in our show, I was facing lessons hitherto unknown and for which I was completely unprepared. Where were the grown up Bert and Ernie, the 20-something Kermit and Cookie Monster to show me the way? Who would teach me about finding a job, a mate, a purpose?
I think this is the void that Robert Lopez, Jeff Marx and Jeff Whitty had in mind when they wrote Avenue Q. Why isn’t there a “Sesame Street” for adults? Something to spoon-feed reality to us: to teach us that we aren’t as special as we were told; that there are limits to what we can do. Well, here it is! Avenue Q burst onto the scene and became a 2004 Tony Award triple-crown show (Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical and Best Original Score). Instantly, every 20-something was drawn to it, and those of us past that age were wishing we could have a do-over! This performance is your chance to reflect on those post-college years, no matter how far removed you are from them, when the world was yours to conquer.
One final note: Give yourself and those around you permission to enjoy this show’s humor. Let political correctness and sexual and societal propriety take a back seat for two hours as we share and laugh at our forbidden thoughts and secret deeds. Why keep the human experience, in its entirety, from each other?
Frank D Shutts II, Director.
Photos by Keith Waters
- Sean Garcia: Princeton/Rod
- Kristina Hopkins: Kate Monster
- Stephanie Gaia Chu: Christmas Eve
- James Hotsko Jr.: Brian
- Matt Liptak: Nicky/Trekkie Monster/Bad Idea Bear
- Claire O’Brien: Lucy the Slut
- Aerika Saxe: Gary Coleman
- Charlene Sloan: Mrs. Thistletwat/Bad Idea Bear/Right Hand
- Christopher A. Tomasino: Conductor
- Matt Jeffrey: Keyboard I
- Julio Diaz: Keyboard II
- Dana Gardner: Reed
- Ben Young: Guitar
- Randy Dahlbert: Bass
- Manny Arciniega: Percussion
- Producers: Margaret Evans-Joyce, Carolyn Winters
- Music Director: Christopher A. Tomasino
- Director: Frank D Shutts II
- Choreographer: Frank D Shutts II
- Stage Managers: Joan Lada, Cristina McConnell
- Set Design: MYKE
- Lighting Design: Ken and Patti Crowley
- Costume Design: Jean Schlichting, Kit Sibley
- Puppet Wrangler: Katherine Dillaber
- Puppet Master: Kristopher Kauff
- Hair and Makeup: Robin Havins Parker, Erin Sullivan
- Media Consultant: Jon Schendinger
- Video Coordinator: Alan Wray
Disclaimer: Little Theater of Alexandria provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.
This article can be linked to as: http://washingtondc.showbizradio.com/goto/9672.
Xandra Weaver has a great love of the process of theater and the creation of art that has led her into working both behind the scenes and onstage. Her career includes working for many years providing sound and lights for both professional and amateur shows as well as makeup work for a feature film. At college, she specialized in makeup to earn her theater degree, and discovered a love for directing and playwrighting. She's also been a nominee for the DC area theater WATCH awards for her work with the company of The Producers with The Arlington Players.