by Beki Pineda

AVENUE Q – Book by Jeff Whitty; Music and Lyrics by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx; Directed by Alicia Myers and Matthew Peters. Produced by BDT Stage (5501 Arapahoe, Boulder) through October 17. Tickets available at 303-449-6000 or BDTstage.com.

In spite of closing down completely, laying off their staff and company, giving up the lease on their shop, dismantling their prop and costume warehouse and being dark for a loooong time, BDT is coming back with a bang!! Their first show back – FOREVER PLAID – gently welcomed people back in limited numbers with a small cast show and reduced menu. But now things are nearly back to normal with lots of seating and a menu of a variety of dishes from which to choose. Familiar faces grace the stage and wait the tables. How wonderful!!

The first thing you see when you enter the stage is the magnificent two-story set. A series of dilapidated brownstone apartments each with doors and windows on the shabby little New York Avenue Q. This was designed by resident designer Amy Campion and then turned over the scene shop at the University of Colorado to be built. It’s a stunning and sturdy piece of work that makes the multiple entrances and exits of the show’s characters easy breezy and allows people to pop out of windows unexpectedly.

All the now familiar characters that live on Avenue Q are present and well represented by the cast talented not only in singing and dancing, but also as puppeteers. Cory Gilstrap’s rod and arm Muppet-style puppet characters come alive in the hands of the cast. The actors with puppets on their arms dress in Ninja black or gray and fade – more or less – into the background as  you find yourself listening to and watching the puppets, rather than those manipulating them. These puppets have so much character and are able to convey joy, sadness, lust, hope . . . all the human emotions . . . through the voice and hands of their actor. It’s amazing how much you can read into a face that really doesn’t move that much; just the timing of the mouth and the slow turning of the head with the help of their humans who understand how to convey emotion better than most of us. So much fun to watch.

Princeton (Brian Cronan), fresh out of college (What Do You Do with a BA in English?), finds himself renting an apartment as far away from downtown as you can get from none other than Gary Coleman (Anna High). He meets his neighbors:  Kate Monster (Christy Oberndorf), Rod and Nicky (Scott Severtson and Joel Chavez) who are roommates, Trekkie Monster who lives upstairs (also Joel Chavez) and the couple next door, Christmas Eve and Brian (Marijune Scott and Leo Battle). Lucy (Melissa Moore), a cabaret singer and slut of the first order and the Bad Idea Bears who are little devils in the disguise of cute teddy bears round out the cast. They each have a specific set of problems and strong personalities that are revealed through song and conversation. Nicky wants Rod to admit he is gay which he adamantly refuses to do (“If You Were Gay”), even inventing a girlfriend in Canada; Princeton can’t figure out his “purpose” in life; Kate Monster and Lucy are looking for love in very different ways (“Special”) and for very different reasons (“There’s a Fine Fine Line”); Brian needs a job and Christmas Eve who is a therapist needs a client. Trekkie Monster is the only one content with who he is because he has figured out that “The Internet is for Porn” and that’s all he needs to know. This is a true ensemble piece with everyone given chances to be highlighted and support their other cast members. In the end, they all decide that “For Now” everything is OK and they are pretty content.

But just because they kind of look like the old familiar Muppets doesn’t mean that they don’t talk and behave like real adults. That’s ADULTS with a capital A. This is NOT a cute little puppet show that you will be comfortable watching with your kids . . . unless your kids are over 20 or 30. Date Night –  yes!! Family Night – NO!!!

A heads up: Toward the end of Act II, the whole cast sings a song called “The Money Song” when Princeton decides his purpose is to help Kate build her school for monsters and gets everyone who lives on Avenue Q to pitch in. Then they turn to the audience and solicit their loose change as well. This wonderful theatre has decided to donate all the money they collect from the audience during this song to the Denver Actor’s Fund who help pay medical bills for actors whose insurance doesn’t cover it when you really break your leg. There are at least three people in this cast and crew that have benefitted directly from the DAF. PLEASE take along some loose change or a $5 or $10 bill to throw in the hat. The community will bless you.

Cute little back story and then I’ll shut up. Back in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, I had the job of Company Manager for the Colorado Shakespeare Festival. Which meant I was in charge of housing, company parties and outside activities for those who didn’t live in Colorado. Additionally, during the rehearsal period, I cooked dinner for the actors most nights. One year there was a guy who came to dinner every night who could eat twice as much as anyone else and looked it. He was a little bit of a buffoon and played those kinds of roles in the shows that summer. Skip forward about four years when everyone was making a big fuss and raving over this new show – AVENUE Q. So I thought I’d look it up and see what it was all about. Home page on their website had a picture of the original cast and guess who was front and center?? My friend who liked my cooking – Jordan Gelber, the original Brian in the show. Who’da thunk it? Not me, for sure.

A WOW factor of 9!!

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