This past week Alasdair and I were fortunate enough to check out the opening night performance of Avenue Q in Vancouver, at the Centre for Performing Arts. I was blissfully unaware of the storyline of this eccentric musical; however, I knew that it included several puppets and was comparable to the likes of The Muppet Show and Sesame Street.
Having now see the show for myself, it’s safe to say the ONLY similarity between the two children’s classics and this particular musical was the puppets and puppeteers! The setting of the show is Avenue Q, a fictional street in New York City and focuses on a new puppet moving to the neighborhood; Princeton. He quickly meets his surrounding neighbors and building superintendant, Gary Coleman – yes, the infamous child actor who recently passed away, reenacted by Anita Welch. This character alone is reason enough to see this musical, but I’ll hopefully attest to a few other tidbits and must-see reasons.
The play was acted in it’s entirety by seven key puppeteers rotating through a series of characters and roles, both narrating and singing in a variety of voices and accents. The range of some of these actors was stunning, especially the two protagonists, David Colston Corris playing both Princeton and Rod, and Ashley Eileen Bucknam playing Kate Monster, Lucy and others. These two powerhouses brought down the house with their fantastic performances and personalization of half-bodied puppets. Often I found myself swept up in the moment, starring at the puppets faces, forgetting they had someone’s hand up their backside. Yes, I meant to type it like that!
The most inspirational character in the show is Rod, a confused puppet suffering with the dread of coming out of the closet and admitting that he is absolutely, without a doubt, head over heels in love with his roommate, Nicky. Yes folks, this musical has GAY puppets. And a studly bear cameo to boot! Definitely one for the record books and a sure hit with the audience, gay and straight. The song dedicated to being gay, and it being okay, was laugh-out-loud brilliant!
There were two showstoppers for me, winning the award for moment/character of the night. The runner up, and definitely worth the praise was the stereotypical female Asian, complete with the English-was-her-second-language accent. Aptly named Christmas Eve – no joke – her character eventually marries an underachieving Caucasian, Brian, whom she is constantly encouraging him to do more with his life. They eventually decide to get married and her dress was undeniably the best costume in the entire show. The scene that followed the wedding nuptials will stay with me for a long time!
The character(s) that won my heart were the Bad Idea Bears. A duo of fur, these loveable play toys were seemingly innocent but provided the best one liners and plot building ideas throughout the show and were critical in the humour department. I found myself endlessly smiling the minute they appeared on stage knowing their presence ensured I would be chuckling in my seat. They were brilliant, and the people behind their comedic timing definitely need recognition. Kerri Brackin and Michael Liscio, Jr. were two of my favourite people throughout the show, largely due to their work as the bears, but also their ability to adapt to a variety of other characters effortlessly.
If you couldn’t tell from my review above, I absolutely LOVED this show and I recommend you go and see while you still can! The show is playing in Vancouver from February 1 – 5, 2011 at the Vancouver Centre for the Performing Arts.
Tickets are available at www.ticketmaster.ca
For more information about the show, including the official Broadway cast in New York City, check out their website: http://www.avenueqontour.com/