This all started when someone had the idea for the Participation Ribbon; that idea that there can be no losers because that might hurt a kid's feelings.
But in life, there are always winners and losers. And Avenue Q, playing in Theatre Three's downstairs space, Theatre Too! steps in to be the new educational program for the insulated youths of the world finally emerging from the world of academia into the cold, cruel reality of responsibility.
Often called Sesame Street for adults, Avenue Q is a Tony Award-winning musical featuring puppets, portrayed in ways that would never fly on PBS. Because this is the adult world, and the lead puppet Princeton (Matt Purvis) has just graduated with his B.A. in English and is ready to conquer the world.
But, he has to find a place to live first. Starting at Avenue A, Princeton works his way down the alphabet and further away from Manhattan—think Brooklyn's lettered Avenues—until he comes to Avenue Q and an apartment building run by none other than former child star Gary Coleman (M. Denise Lee), one of three human characters in the show.
Like in any New York City apartment building, the tenants are a colorful and eclectic bunch. There's roommate best friends Rod (Purvis) and Nicky (James Chandler)—an obvious Bert and Ernie reference—the cute kindergarten teaching assistant Kate Monster (Megan Kelly Bates), the porn-obsessed Trekkie Monster (Michael Robinson), and engaged human couple Brian (Chester Maple) and Christmas Eve (Olivia de Guzman Emile).
Princeton's quest, like anyone's in life, is to find his purpose, but the other characters are not without their issues as well. Brian struggles to find a job while his fiancé struggles to find clients for her counseling practice. Rod may or may not be a closeted homosexual and Nicky is trying to coax it out of him. And Kate is trying to make her way in the world of education and find a good man to settle down with. And the show spends time, and funny songs, addressing each of these storylines.
Avenue Q is a rapturously hilarious and fun show in general and pretty hard to screw up. But even so, it does take a cast with a keen nose for comedy and that is adept at pushing that envelope when it comes to donning funny voices and spending two hours with their arms inside a bundle of felt and batting. And this cast performs exceptionally.
Purvis and Emile are actually transplants from the first area production of the show earlier this year at Music Theatre of Denton where they played the same roles, minus Purvis' turn as Rod in this production. And there's good reason each of them were able to secure the parts of Princeton and Christmas Eve again. For starters, both sound as close to the original cast as it can come, an especially impressive accomplishment for Emile as Christmas Eve, despite being human, has a shrill and cartoonishly stereotyped delivery. Both were impressive and Denton and continue to own the roles in Dallas.
Bates, who in addition to Kate Monster also plays the puppet Lucy the Slut, brings a nice take to the roles. Her Kate is quirky, cute, and imminently endearing to the audience. If it's possible to feel empathy for a puppet, Bates makes the audience do it.
The entire cast is up to the task and make the show just as humorous and enjoyable as one might expect. And Jac Alder's set design is creative, especially for the tiny space it's in. Director Michael Serrecchia has really put together a top-notch show, with puppets created by Robinson and Pix Smith of the Dallas Puppet Theater.
Rated R for all the right reasons, Avenue Q is a must-watch for adults of all ages, but especially the younger set. As the last few years have shown us, life is most definitely not fair. And yet kids are too often sheltered from that. Avenue Q allows for the audience to take a knowing glance at the harshness of the world and offers a cathartic laugh. The audience laughs at the show, and it laughs with the audience.