Theatre Mirror Reviews - "AVENUE Q"

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Note: Entire Contents Copyright 2016 by Tony Annicone



”AVENUE Q”

Reviewed by Tony Annicone



Winner of the Tony Triple Crown for Best Musical, Best Score and Best Book, "Avenue Q" is the latest summer show at Ocean State Theatre Company. A recent college graduate named Princeton moves into a New York apartment way out on ''Avenue Q,'' discovering the place is no ordinary neighborhood as he and his friends struggle for jobs, dates, and the ever elusive purpose in life. Who are the people in your neighborhood? Well, they are definitely not the residents of Avenue Q. Princeton soon discovers that although the residents seem lovely, it is very clear this is not your ordinary neighborhood. His neighbors include Kate Monster, a kindergarten teaching assistant; Rod, an anal-retentive Republican banker; Nicky, Rod's slacker roommate; Brian, an aspiring comedian recently laid off from his day job; Christmas Eve, Brian's Japanese fiancee and a therapist with no clients; Trekkie Monster, a surly recluse who surfs the internet all day in search of porn; and Gary Coleman, the building superintendent. Together, Princeton and his new-found friends fill the theater with laughter from start to finish in this high energy musical. The cast includes 3 human characters and 11 puppet characters who interact as if human.Director Jason Parrish, musical director Justin Cowan and choreographer MK Lawson combine their expertise together to produce a sensational contemporary musical that will resonate with audience members.

Jason gives each of his cast their moments to shine and gives them clever shtick to perform. I last reviewed Jason when he was in "39 Steps" at Theatre by the Sea. The show is similar to a grittier, Sesame Street with some stellar musical numbers. A couple of the funniest are "The Internet is for Porn" and "You Can Be Loud as Hell When You're Making Love.'' Justin leads a six piece orchestra and taught the clever and catchy tunes to this talented cast while MK creates some fun filled dance numbers. Tommy Labanaris commands the stage as Princeton and Rod. He makes the two characters distinct from each other. His songs include "What Do You Do with a B.A. in English?" as Princeton when he first moves in, "Fantasies Come True" where Kate and Princeton profess their love and Rod has a dream about being in love with Nicky, "My Girlfriend Lives in Canada" is where Rod makes up a pretend girl friend to cover up his being gay.

The other cast members live up to the high standards that Tommy sets for them. Rochelle Weinrauch is excellent as Kate and Lucy, the slut. Her soprano voice shines in all her numbers. Rochelle sings "Special" when Lucy does a seductive dance for Princeton and the poignant, "Fine, Fine Line" as Kate refuses to be just friends with Princeton and breaks off their relationship. This song sounds like "The Egg" from "1776." Rochelle's vocal changes as these two characters is marvelous.Jeff Blanchette plays three different roles of Nikky, Trekkie Monster and Bad Idea Bear. His strong baritone voice soars in his numbers including "If You Were Gay" sung as Nikky confronts Rod with his suspicions, "The Internet is for Porn" telling how he enjoys using the internet and "School for Monsters" when he gives Kate the money for her school as Trekkie Monster and "You Can Be as Loud as Hell" as Bad Idea Bear. The harmony in "The Money Song'' is fantastic. His vocal prowess as these different characters is astounding especially the guttural voice for Trekkie.

The three humans in the show are Lovely Hoffman as Gary, Greg LoBuono as Brian and Jenna Lea Scott as his fiancee, Christmas Eve. Lovely is a hoot as Gary Coleman. She displays her strong voice in "It Sucks to Be Me", "Everyone is a Little Bit Racist" and "Schandenfreude" when Gary derives pleasure from Nicky being homeless. It means happiness at the misfortune of others. Greg's hilarious number is "I'm Not Wearing Underwear Today", a raunchy stand up act that has to be seen to be believed. He is very funny as his wife to be is aggressive with him about getting a job. Jenna sings in several numbers including the Racist song and "The Money Song". Jenna is also very comical as she sings "The More You Ruv Someone" whhich is her advice to Kate on how to catch a man. She and Greg are hysterical as this couple who end up happily married and move to a new neighborhood. The lesson they finally learn is life is only for now as they sing "For Now" to close this high energy show. Rounding out this talented cast are Elise Arsenault, Joe DeLeo and Helena Tafuri. Elise's facial expressions are perfect and as the puppet master taught the splendid way to work all the puppets. Joe and Helena are RIC students who handle the comic moments in this show splendidly. I reviewed them in 2014 as Ben and Regina in "The Little Foxes" where they showed they are equally adept at drama, too. The fabulous set and lighting is by Tyler Perry. He has come a long way since I directed him in "Lost in Yonkers" back in 2002. It is always gratifying to see a young person achieve success a field they were enthusiastic about as a child. The company of characters finally grow up and change for the better. The main ingredient is that this show has a lot of heart to it. So for a fabulous contemporary musical that will leave you rolling in the aisles, be sure to catch "Avenue Q" at Ocean State Theatre Company, before all the humans and puppets leave town.

AVENUE Q (3 to 21 August)
Ocean State Theatre Company, 1245 Jefferson Boulevard, Warwick, RI
1(401)921-6800 or www.oceanstatetheatre.org




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