Sunday, June 11, 2017

Avenue Q—Triangle Productions!—NE Portland

Puppets Rule

This Triple-Crown, 2004, Tony-award winning musical is back again for the third time by special demand, and is again directed and designed by the one and only, Donald Horn (Triangle’s driving force).  It has music and lyrics by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx, book by Jeff Whitty and musical direction by the one and only, Jonathan Quesenberry.  It is playing at their space in The Sanctuary at Sandy Plaza, 1785 NE Sandy Blvd. (free parking lot to the West of the bldg.), through July 1st.  For more information, go to their site at or call 503-239-5919.

The above title may not only refer to Avenue Q (think about it)!  This show has been referred to as the dark side of “Sesame Street,” since it is about a neighborhood incorporating puppets and humans.  But, know this for sure, it is not for children!  That being said, I would call it more of a realistic and honest look at what makes humans who they are, all colors of the rainbow but having shades of gray.  “To err is human…” and so do all the inhabitants of Avenue Q.  First, recognize flaws in oneself, then learn to adapt and embrace new ways of thinking and behaving.  When accomplished, it will be a far, far better world, I believe.

The story involves a newbie to the ‘hood, Princeton (Isaiah Rosales), fresh out of college and now graduated to the city of hard knocks to find his fame and fortune…or, just his Purpose in Life would be sufficient.  The Super for the apartments is Gary Coleman (Raphael Likes), yes, that Gary Coleman.  Princeton eventually meets his neighbors.  There is Kate Monster (Hannah Wilson), a teacher who wants to start a School for Monsters and, although of the Monster clan, there seems to be an attraction.  Then there is Brain, (Dave Cole), a rather lame comedian, and his betrothed, Christmas Eve (Justine Davis), a counselor.

There is Rod (Matthew Brown), a rather meticulous sort and Nicki (James Sharinghousen), a bit of a slob, who are roommates.  The elusive, upstairs neighbor is Trekkie Monster (Sharinghousen, again), who’s pastime is indulging in porn.  Also, although not a neighbor, there is the vampish, Lucy, the Slut (Kelsey Bentz), who’s talents seem to be in keeping a good man down, or up, depending on the circumstances.  And I haven’t even mentioned the singing Moving Boxes or the Bad Idea Bears, the “looser” side of one’s alter-ego.   These characters, and more, will come together and attempt to create a community in which dreams are found, secrets revealed, purposes discovered, lives changed and friendships formed.  Sounds pretty much like the world we already live in and people we know so, if you dare, take “a walk on the wild side” with the incomparable residents of “Avenue Q.”

The songs and music are a hoot and pretty much tell the story of what you might discover in this neighborhood.  There is “If You Were Gay,” “Everybody’s a Little Bit Racist,” “The Internet is For Porn,” “Fantasies Come True,” and “Schadenfreude” (you’ll have to see it to discover the meaning).  All the songs/lyrics are part of the story and all quite compelling.  My favorites are the show-stopping (both song and singer, Wilson), “There’s a Fine, Fine Line” as well as the touching, “The More You Ruv Someone” (Wilson & Davis).  All these songs need strong singers and Horn has the cream of the crop for this production!

Wilson is a stand-out (as she was as the young Liza in a show earlier this season).  She has a dynamite voice and is a fine actor, too.  A career awaits her in this field, I believe, if she so chooses.  Sharinghousen is always a favorite onstage, not only as a singer, but actor as well.  He shines again here, too.  Davis and Bentz have powerful voices for the characters they portray.  And Rosales is perfect as the innocent to this big, bad world.  Horn, as always, is an unstoppable force when creating a show.  As I once mentioned, some friends and I saw this in the Big Apple and honestly liked Horn’s vision better!

Quesenberry and his band of musicians are always an asset to Horn’s shows and they don’t overpower the actors, either, which often happens in a musical.  I loved the set and puppet.  The set was built by Demetri Pavlatos, puppets (some) by Steven Overton and Marty Richmond over at Portland Puppet Museum/Olde World Puppet Theatre (Trekkie, Kate and Lucy only) and James Sharinghousen helped with the assistance of working with the puppets.  It should be noted that there is full frontal, puppet nudity with a sex scene in this production and some partial back-al exposure by one of the humans, as well as raunchy situations and language.

This show created one of the biggest upsets in Tony history in 2004, as this little show won all the top prizes for a musical, beating out the heavily favored, “Wicked.”  I highly recommend this production.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

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