COLUMN: Bravo to cast of 'Avenue Q'
OU’s University Theatre production of “Avenue Q” reminds me why I first fell in love with the puppet musical several years ago. The show, having a lengthy and successful run on Broadway now graces the Rupel Jones Theatre to embrace audiences with a heartfelt story and strong comedy that is sure to summon many laughs.
The 2004 Tony-Award winner for best musical is done is almost like an R-rated “Sesame Street.” Despite having puppets, the content of the show is definitely for an older audience (so don’t take young children). But the themes presented throughout are for all ages. It is a story about growing up that presents the journey in an honest and comical fashion.
What sets “Avenue Q” apart from most other OU productions is the constant and clever use of puppets as characters. The human actors dress in black and hold the puppets as they perform, almost fusing into one where the actors make the facial expressions the puppets cannot.
It was hilarious and ironic to see the innocence of puppets so smartly fused with the adult humor of the show.
The story is of a new college grad named Princeton, who moves to New York City. While there, he befriends the residents of his apartment complex along Avenue Q. He also learns much about himself, in the roller coaster of love, grief and journey that is life.
The score of the show contains hilarious ballads and ensemble songs such as “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist,” “The Internet is for Porn,” “There’s a Fine, Fine Line” and (my personal favorite) “Special.” The cast gave splendid vocal performances. The genre of music takes many different elements of up-tempo contemporary styles, slow and sexy jazz and classical musical theatre belting.
Dorcas Leung, portrays Christmas Eve, the intensely comical Japanese girlfriend of resident, Brian. Leung shined in “The More You Ruv Someone.” Her vocal technique was clear and stunning, and throughout the entire show, the dedication to the very funny Christmas Eve is clear and resonant as a whole.
Performers Kyra Faith Warton and Ethan Kahn made me laugh out loud from their take on the characters of Gary Coleman and Trekkie Monster/Nikki respectively. Knowing the show for a little while, I admit I had a few pre-established notions of what it should be and how I’ve seen it done. I was pleasantly surprised to see the inspiring and interesting takes on these characters I adore. Warton, who is dealing with a knee injury, performed the role of Gary (to my overwhelming amusement) with a walker. I have never seen anything so smart and cleverly imbued within a personal performance. It really, really worked.
While there was not a single person I did not enjoy seeing or listening to, there were rare points in which it was hard to hear the performers, and not necessarily because of technical issues. However, for the vast majority of the show, it was easy to pick up on the jokes and the words of the songs.
The stationary apartment complex set was fantastically done. The downstage area of the stage was painted to mimic a New York City street and the use of props like TV’s were used appropriately. Vibrant bricks and weather-worn doors really give the set a grungy New York City feel.
I am ecstatic “Avenue Q” is being performed so excellently at OU. The show has poignant themes that greatly relate to the age groups here on campus, with a relatable sense of humor to go with it. It was one of my favorite musicals before I saw it here, and actually watching the students perform the piece reminds me why I fell in love with it in the first place. Bravo.