Saturday, June 15, 2013

Avenue Q, the Musical—Triangle Productions—The Sanctuary at Sandy Plaza, NE Portland

Proud to be Them

The revival of their hit musical from the Fall, Avenue Q, is playing through June 29th at their site at 1785 NE Sandy Blvd.  It is written by Robert Lopez, Jeff Marx and Jeff Whitty and  directed and designed by Donald Horn (Triangle’s Artistic Director) and Vocal Director is Jonathan Quesenberry.  For further information, go to www.tripro.org or call 503-239-5919.

I reviewed this musical last Fall when they did it (and loved it) and now I’m taking a second look, as 50% of the cast is new to this production.  I won’t fall into the trap in comparing the two shows but, will say this, overall, this production is slightly better, mainly because of the replacement of two of the cast members.  Can you believe that this is the play that caused the biggest upset in Tony Award history, by beating out Wicked (considered a shoe-in) for Best Musical of 2004?!  And it’s done by puppets, mainly, and explores the very, dark side of a Sesame Street.  That, alone, should be reasons to see it.

I’ve always thought that in a really good musical, the music/lyrics of a show should be an intricate part of a play, so that you could tell the story through its songs.  Let’s test that theory.  The heart of the story begins with the arrival of Princeton (Matthew Brown), just recently out of college and wondering what to do with his B.A in English.  He moves into the housing of Avenue Q and discovers that they all are in similar ruts and it sucks to be them. 

They are all struggling with identity and their purpose in life.  Roommates, Nicky (James Sharinghousen) and Rod (Jeremy Garfinkel) aren’t willing to admit that they are closet Gays.  And the entire ensemble admits that everyone’s is a little bit racist sometimes.  Not only that, but they are forced to admit that their secret Internet lives include Porn, as voiced by the Trekkie Monster (James Sharinghousen).

Love blossoms between Princeton and Kate Monster (Elizabeth Fritsch) when he makes her a tape of mixed songs, expressing his feelings.  On another front, Brian (Jonathan Quesenberry) tries his hand at being a stand-up, Blue comic by admitting he’s not wearing any underwear.  And, at the same club, Lucy (Katey Bridge) vamps her way into men’s desires by being special for them.  And Princeton and Kate can be as loud as they want in a night of wild sex.  And Rod and Nicky discover, in dreams, that sexual fantasies can come true.  But, in the light of day, Rod still admits that he is straight and that he has a girlfriend in Canada.

Kate discovers there is a fine line “between love and a waste of time.”  And she and Christmas Eve (Sarah Kim), Brian’s main squeeze, agree that the more you ruv someone, the crazier it gets.  They all have to admit that there is life outside of Avenue Q and they wish they could go back to college and possibly start over.  Gary Coleman (Salim Sanchez), the Manager of the complex, expresses his point of view as Schadenfreude, being happy about the misfortunes of others, because you can count yourself lucky not to be them.  They all complain about not having enough money but when it’s revealed that Kate wants to start a school for Monsters, they all pitch in to help.  In the end, some will move on and up, but everyone has been changed by their experiences on Avenue Q…for now.  The audience should be, too.

Donald has never failed to Entice the best from his cast…Enchant an audience with his own form of magic…or Educate the public to a profound awareness of who we really are.  Bravo!  No doubt there will be more of this next season.  The lighting (Jeff Woods) is also effective in creating the moods of the scenes.  And the band is super, never overpowering the actors, a common fault in many other musicals.

And there is not a bad performance in this show!  They are all masters of their craft.  Shareinghousen (a Drammy winner this year) is wonderful as Trekkie, the guttural, Porn Monster, and Nicky, the sensitive roommate.  And who wouldn’t fall in love with Fritsch’s Kate, someone you want to wrap your arms around and keep from harm.  Quesenberry is lovable as the clumsy Brian.  And, Kim, equally good, as his savvy partner, Eve.  Bridge, a wonderful sleaze, can seduce me anytime.  Garfinkel is effective as the conflicted Rod.  Sanchez is a good fit for the street-wise, Gary.  And Brown is perfect for the Everyman of the piece.

I highly recommend this show but, be advised, it is not for everyone because of the strong adult situations and language.  If you choose to go, tell them Dennis send you.