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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, November 23, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 47
Be sure to visit Avenue Q (if you can get tickets!)
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
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Be sure to visit Avenue Q (if you can get tickets!)

by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

AVENUE Q
BALAGAN THEATRE
Through December 16


Balagan Theatre is going to sell out its production of the Tony Award Triple Crown-winning Avenue Q - guaranteed. It's a perfect show for Capitol Hill: cheeky, vulgar, funny, sexy, adult. In addition, it happens to be done to high exacting standards, which at this point is what one expects from director Eric Ankrim.

Avenue Q brought puppets to Broadway with a show that is essentially Sesame Street for adults. We're introduced to a neighborhood with humans and puppets sharing their lives side by side. These residents are beset by normal adult problems like unemployment, bad luck in love ... and figuring out if they're Gay.

The musical is skit-oriented, with quick scenes that often feature a song. The puppets, beautifully designed by Russ Walko, are take-offs on Muppets - especially Trekkie Monster, who, as voiced by Rob Scherzer, sounds a lot like Cookie Monster and Oscar the Grouch. Rather than puppets being manipulated with people in black or hidden under or behind screens, these puppets are voiced by actor/singers who are clearly visible and are part of the emoting of the characters.

NEW KID ON THE BLOCK
Princeton (Heathcliff Saunders) comes to Avenue Q with his newly minted B.A. in English in hand to start a new life. He's unsure what he's going to do next, but ready to advise him are new neighbors Kate Monster (Kirsten deLohr Helland), Nicky and Rod (Brian Lange and Justin Huertas), Christmas Eve and Brian (Diana Huey and Danny Kam), and the Bad Idea Bears (Katie Griffith and Ryan McCabe). Oh, yeah, Gary Coleman (Rashawn Scott) is the superintendent of his apartment building!

They all join in a rousing rendition of one-upping each other in 'It Sucks to Be Me.' The moral here is not that life is peachy, but that as long as things are all right for now, that's good enough to get you to tomorrow. Another bonding song is 'Everyone's a Little Bit Racist,' which postulates that if we'd all recognize that out loud, we'd all get along much better.

There's a cute love story between Princeton and Kate, which results in a funny puppet-on-puppet sex scene. Helland's high-pitched puppet voice gives Kate just the right amount of insouciance. Saunders' wide-eyed innocent is easily manipulated by the helpful unhelpfulness of the Bad Idea Bears. In fact, he's stalked by Lucy the Slut, voiced by the vampy and funny Kate Jaeger (who doubles as Kate's boss, Mrs. Thistletwat).

Poor Rod is so uncomfortable that he might possibly be Gay that he kicks out Nicky, his roommate and best friend, because he's in love with him - leaving Nicky homeless. Huertas performs the other funny-awful adult sex reference when Rod claims to have a girlfriend and demonstrates his love of going down on her. Hysterical.

Christmas Eve is a hen-pecking Asian American with two degrees, one in counseling, who doesn't have any clients, maybe because she's a little too free with her tart opinions. Huey gets a great song, too, with 'The More You Ruv Someone (The More You Want to Kiw Dem).' Poor Brian, unemployed but genial, gets the brunt of her tongue.

The whole cast is great and you can't help grinning at the colorful costumes by Kathryn Dawson, the great set design by Ron Darling and Ahren Buhmann, and the tight musical direction by Chris DiStefano and his little band. Though it's not exactly standard choreography, director Ankrim had to make sure every little moment was calculated. If two people manipulate one puppet, you gotta decide which hand is gonna do what.

For more information, go to www.balagantheatre.org or call (206) 329-1050.

Discuss your opinions with sgncritic@gmail.com or go to www.facebook.com/SeattleTheaterWriters.

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