Avenue Q at NightBlue Performing Arts Company | Theater review
The potty-mouthed puppet parody sweeps the clouds away.
Mitt Romney loves Big Bird, he really does. That didn’t stop the Republican presidential nominee from announcing at his first debate with President Obama that he’d cut funding to PBS if elected. If Romney wins the upcoming election, Big Bird and pals could always make their way to Avenue Q, the place where puppet hopes go to die.
The 2004 Tony Award winner for best musical is a vulgar, offensive, definitely not-for-kids parody of Jim Henson’s beloved Sesame Street, looking at adult issues through a candy-colored, puppet-filled lens. David E. Walters stages an energetic production, but the quality of the performances varies wildly between the puppet and human characters. The four actors who are also puppeteers—Adam Fane, Casi Maggio, Jason Richards Smith and Monica Szaflik—are outstanding and don’t pull focus from their counterparts, which are beautifully crafted by Noah Ginex.
Fane and Smith both pull double duty, and they don’t skip a beat when switching between puppets, sometimes within the same scene. The human characters never reach that same level of vitality. Despite his physical resemblance to the late actor, David Robbins is miscast as Avenue Q’s version of Gary Coleman, a part written for a woman. His strong vocals are overshadowed by a stiff stage presence, limited to three standard poses: thumbs hooked under his overalls, arms crossed across the chest, and hands on his hips.
The concept may be silly, but Avenue Q is an unexpectedly down-to-earth look at a group of people searching for purpose in their lives, or at least someone to make them feel special. Mitt Romney could learn something from NightBlue’s production, which shows that puppets are people too.