Country Playhouse Gets Down and Dirty with Avenue Q
Photo courtesy Country Playhouse
There's a reason why Broadway has remained the province of the American musical for generations. All that razzle-dazzle can only be housed in the large-scale theaters of the Great White Way and city-specific venues that can support their touring productions. (Think our Hobby Center for the Performing Arts.) Logistically speaking, these multiplexes of the theater world are the only spaces where that gigantic chandelier could come crashing to the floor in The Phantom of the Opera, or that burring helicopter could land on a rooftop in Miss Saigon, or the Wicked Witch of the West could defy gravity in Wicked -- at least convincingly.
This is why few musicals are properly suited for the inherent smallness of community theater. Avenue Q, though, is one of those musicals. The 2004 Tony Award winner for Best Musical works well in the intimacy of the Country Playhouse because the show -- music and lyrics by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx -- isn't about the pomp and circumstance of the aforementioned productions. It's about real life and the full-bodied characters that make up that reality. And it's about laughing. Hard. In a nutshell, the off-color musical is a riff on the nurturing encouragement of Sesame Street, where every child is special and destined for greatness. The denizens of Avenue Q, however, are adults who must face the unthinkable: They're not special, and, more importantl, life's a bitch.
Tyler Galindo makes a fine Princeton, the musical's straight-out-of-college protagonist. Galindo is fresh-faced and sings with a hopeful earnestness that underscores the characters' main dilemma: What exactly does a bright kid with no work experience do with a BA in English? Princeton is one of the characters personified by a puppet, as is Kate Monster, performed with spot-on sprightliness by Laura Botkin. She's a monster on a mission, but is hampered by the fact that, like everyone else on her block, she's working a job she hates just to pay the bills.
Avenue Q deals with heavy subject matter, but in the form of hilarious numbers like "Everyone's a Little Bit Racist," "Fantasies Come True" (the longings of a closeted Republican) and "Schadenfreude" (the act of taking pleasure from someone else's pain). There's even a song sequence that features hot and heavy puppet sex.
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However, there were a few chinks in the production's otherwise solid chain. Technical difficulties marred the comedic timing of "The Internet Is For Porn" and a slideshow slip-up gave away part of the ending resolution. Not all of the lyrics in "Special" and "The More Your Ruv Someone" were audible, but for the most part the players hit their marks, which is no easy task when your performance involves the added element of puppetry. Avenue Q is really about the colorful cast of characters; by the end of the show, we wish we could spend a little more time with them.
Avenue Q runs through July 28 at Country Playhouse, 12802 Queensbury Lane. For information, call 713-467-4497 or visit www.countryplayhouse.org.
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