Theater review: Avenue Q

  • Photo by Meloney Buehl, LightSwitch Creative
From the August 9, 2012 edition

What would happen if the puppets of our childhood graduated from college, moved out on their own and got drunk and horny? “Avenue Q,” a Tony winner now in production by CATCO, answers that question in ways that’ll make you snort, gasp and maybe even brush away a tear.

“Avenue Q” puts classic child-socialization stuff — self-discovery, friendship and the consequences of bad behavior — through a sharply satirical lens. It’s hilarious and raunchy, but it’s also unexpectedly touching to see puppets emote and suffer the joys and pains of young adulthood.

The musical hinges on a puppet named Princeton, who’s fresh out of college and new to Avenue Q, where he’s renting his first apartment and hoping to find his greater purpose. Princeton is controlled and voiced by Cody Michael Shope, who, like the other “Avenue Q” actors, is fully visible yet virtually unnoticed by the audience. The effect is magical, especially when you realize you’re hearing one actor voice two puppets on stage at the same time, while someone else moves one of the puppets. This ballet of music, voice and motion was executed flawlessly on opening night at “Avenue Q.”

The actors and voices — especially Shope and Carmen Keels, who voices both Kate Monster and her rival in love, Lucy — are top-notch. And the music you hear is no recording; sneak a peek at the balcony to see the six-piece band playing the score live.