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Jun 6, 2014 - Jun 22, 2014
Book by Jeff Whitty; Music & Lyrics by Robert Lopez & Jeff Marx
DATES: June 6 – 22, 2014
Winner of the Tony “Triple Crown” for Best Musical, Best Score and Best Book, Avenue Q is part flesh, part felt and packed with heart. This laugh-out-loud musical tells the timeless story of Princeton, a recent college grad who moves into a shabby New York apartment all the way out on Avenue Q. There, he meets Kate (the girl next door), Rod (the Republican), Trekkie (the internet sexpert), Lucy the Slut (need we say more?), and other colorful characters who help Princeton finally discover his purpose in life!
Princeton / Rod – Charlie Reese
Kate Monster / Lucy – Rebecca Hunt
Nicky – Adam Jedlicka
Trekkie – Dane Van Brocklin
Gary Coleman – Kamillah Camp-Bey
Christmas Eve – Hannah McClatchey
Brian – Douglas Cochrane
Mrs. Thistletwat / Bad Idea Bear (female understudy) – Haley Sisler
Bad Idea Bear (male understudy) – Andrew Overton
Director / Choreographer – Karla Kash
Music Director – Ben Hagen
Stage Manager / Assistant Director – Clare VanEchaute
Assistant Stage Manager / Assistant Director – Abigail Diamond
Production Manager – Shelby Burgus
Set Designer – Clay Daggett
Costume Designer – Sara Jablon
Lighting Designer – Jim Trenberth
Sound Designer – Josh Jepson
Hair / Makeup Designer – Cindy Hummel
Properties Designer – Susan Sheriff
Carpenter – Paul Monstom
Dramaturge – Nancy Evans
Theater review: Puppet love for StageWest’s ‘Avenue Q’
Michael Morain, Des Moines Register firstname.lastname@example.org June 8, 2014
Are you feeling down these days? Are your plans falling through?
Well buck up, little buddy, because StageWest has just the pick-me-up you need over on “Avenue Q.” Their version of the puppet musical for grown-ups is so relentlessly – even aggressively – upbeat that you can’t help turning that no-good frown upside down.
And even though some of the shock value has faded 11 years after the puppets first started swearing and having sex on Broadway, the local production, directed by Karla Kash, caught plenty of happy viewers off guard at a sold-out show Saturday at the Stoner Theater. The subversive “Sesame Street” parody is still delightfully unsuitable for public television.
It’s also sort of sweet. A big reason why the show won three Tony Awards is because its creators – Jeff Whitty, Jeff Marx and Robert Lopez (“Book of Mormon”) – wrote an endearing story about a penniless young college graduate trying to make a life in the big city. That’s even more endearing here, where the low-budget set (Clay Daggett) and props (Susan Sheriff) fit the show’s make-it-work spirit.
But the puppets themselves are top of the line, rented from a company in Ohio and animated with impressive skill by the local cast.
The hardworking Charlie Reese lends an array of emotions to our fuzzy hero, Princeton, whose neighbors include a plucky young monster named Kate (the crackerjack Rebecca Hunt, in her StageWest debut), a porn-addicted beast named Trekkie Monster (Dane Van Brocklin) and a Bert-and-Ernie pair named Rod (Reese again) and Nicky (Adam Jedlicka).
Princeton also meets the Bad Idea Bears (Haley Sisler, Andrew Overton), who encourage him to make all sorts of bad choices that wouldn’t occur even on the “very special” episodes of “Sesame Street” – that is, unless “Sesame Street” casts a character named Lucy the Slut (Hunt again, in a completely opposite role).
The foam-rubber stars share the crowded stage with a handful of flesh-and-blood characters, including an unemployed comedian (Douglas Cochrane), his Japanese-American fiancee (Hannah McClatchey, shining in a dicey role) and the former child star Gary Coleman, who spends his post-celebrity days as a swaggering slumlord (swagger courtesy of Kamillah Camp-Bey, another great newcomer).
With all those characters on a thrust stage, the puppeteers’ backs turn too often to the audience and break the illusion that the puppets have lives of their own. But when that illusion works – especially in the solos from Princeton, Rod, Kate and Lucy – it works as well as any of the numbers in the national touring production that came to Des Moines in 2007. The solo numbers, like “Purpose” and “There’s a Fine, Fine Line,” allow the puppets to breathe more than the show’s rowdier ensemble songs, like “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist,” “Schadenfreude” and – that timeless ballad – “The Internet is for Porn.” (Pianist Ben Hagen leads the solid eight-piece band, hidden backstage).
The local version is set here in Des Moines rather than New York City, and the set’s painted backdrop shows off the State Capitol, the State Fairgrounds and so on. The slightly re-written script drops references to the DART buses and a certain Iowa congressman whose name drew a big laugh Saturday during the final song, “For Now.”
“Life may be scary, but it’s only temporary,” the characters sing. “Everything in life is only for now.”
And that includes the show, which runs through June 22, capping off StageWest’s 17 years at the Stoner Theater. Like Princeton, the company will move to new digs, at the Des Moines Social Club, starting this fall.
Sex, drugs, Kermit and Oscar
John Domini, Cityview, Des Moines IA, 6/11/2014
Turns out it’s not far from Sesame Street to Broadway. “Avenue Q,” now at Stagewest, demonstrates a terrific musical can combine puppets who look like Kermit and Oscar, kiddie-show singalong energy, and a healthy dollop of raunch. In 2003 “Q” garnered three Tony awards, and it remained on Broadway for years. Here in Des Moines, it’s nothing less that the triumph of Stagewest’s season.
“Avenue Q” updates the ancient wisdom that childhood doesn’t end at puberty. It introduces a likeable group of twentysomethings — wood and cloth, most of them, but likeable. Three actors work puppet-free, in colorful clothing, but four players in black handle no fewer than 11 puppets, each another character, requiring a different voice and posture. Together, this ensemble sings and dances its way to thirtysomething.
The School of Hard Knocks, as ever, proves tougher than any university. Indeed, one of the few downbeat numbers is “I Wish I Could Go Back to College,” a more mournful ditty by far than “It Sucks to Be Me.” Indeed, “Sucks” comes across as bouncy, and bounce, throughout, proves key to the show’s success. Timing is on the dot, for every punchline, every pratfall, right from the opening swirl of players around the set’s central riser. That riser is backed by murals of Des Moines icons (the Meredith Trowel, the State House), but during the play it could be a” Star Trek” transporter. Alien shapes keep turning up: now lovers in a bedroom, now performers in a nightclub, and in nearly every case puppets.
The most hilarious shape-shifting comes in the ironic big numbers, show-stoppers like “The Internet is for Porn.” It’s a rare treat to see a full cast hopping and harmonizing around a line like “Grab your dick and double-click!”
Speaking of body parts, “Q” demands plenty of physical comedy, and the best comes from two relative newcomers, Dane Van Brocklin out of Drake and Kamillah Camp-Bey out of Roosevelt High. Van Brocklin handles Trekkie Monster, the freak for Internet porn, and Camp-Bey has one of the few puppet-free roles, namely, Gary Coleman. Yes, Gary Coleman, the fallen star. As one of the writers put it, Coleman is a “poster child” for the show’s theme: “not feeling special because you’re not a kid anymore.” As Camp-Bey plays him, cross-gender, snapping her torso and rolling her eyes, she’s her own puppet.
Even more impressive, though less about body English, is Rebecca Hunt as both Kate Monster and Lucy. The dual role demands Hunt switch from good girl to queen bitch and back, yet she nails each shift of tone, now asserting herself and now shrinking. Better yet, she can multi-task when it comes to puppet sex, yowling and groaning — and singing and dancing. Hunt and company can turn Sesame Street to the Wizard’s Yellow Brick Road.
Overheard in the Lobby: This weekend only, at Salisbury House, Repertory Theater of Iowa will present its annual Shakespeare on the Lawn, “The Merchant of Venice.” That’s June 12-15 only, at 7:30 p.m. CV
John Domini is Cityview’s “Play Mate” theater critic who pens our weekly Center Stage column. He is a published local author who has lived on both coasts and abroad and enjoyed theater everywhere. See www.johndomini.com.