Avenue Q

by Will Demers

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Sunday August 7, 2016

Avenue Q

Growing up with shows like "Sesame Street," we're taught as children that we can do anything, and be anyone we want to be. If you can dream big, then maybe those dreams will come true. Those wise puppets and adults are right, aren't they?

"Avenue Q" takes place on a New York street; not quite a slum, but an area where people's hopes and dreams have been dashed one by one until there's nothing left but cynicism, racism, failed relationships and careers. Sounds dramatic, doesn't it?

It would be if this were a drama, but it isn't, the residents of this street are played by puppets AND humans, and the result is absolutely hysterical. Pretty much a story of boy meets girl, er, puppet meets monster, this show isn't for kids, but adults will relate to just about everything here.

Ocean State Theatre Company has never shied away from doing just about any show, and here "Q" is a great choice for the summer, surprisingly quite topical despite being 13-odd years old. Racism, bad jokes, homosexuality, and homelessness are dealt with here deftly by a cast who could have come straight from Broadway.

Humans Brian (Greg LoBuono,) Christmas Eve (Jenna Lea Scott,) and Gary Coleman (Lovely Hoffman) are two residents and superintendent, respectively, welcoming Princeton (Tommy Labanaris) to the block, 22, fresh out of college and looking for his purpose in life.

There's also Kate Monster (Rochelle Weinrauch) who lives there also and is a substitute teacher who dreams of opening her school for monsters; Trekkie Monster (Jeff Blanchette) who doesn't leave his apartment but has something to say about everything; and two bears (Blanchette and Elise Arsenault) with bad ideas in mind. If you haven't seen this very funny show, I won't spoil the story for you. It's a formulaic premise, but it's the execution that is unusual. The actors handling the puppets are not hidden at all, yet we are supposed to focus on the performance of the characters, and surprisingly, it works well.

There's a reason why this particular show was one of the longest running on Broadway; it's funny as hell. Not politically correct, some adult language and puppet nudity (yup, I said that) plus poppy, upbeat songs make this one a great diversion. The cast is a great ensemble. Hoffman is excellent as Coleman, the former child actor who's spent his fortune and now runs an old apartment building.

LuBuono's Brian is quite funny as the thirty-something husband with no job still dreaming of being a stand-up comedian. As his wife Christmas, Scott is hysterical as the Asian social worker who scares all of her clients away.

Blanchette and Arsenault are incredibly talented singers and puppet handlers, as well. But our two "leads" were clearly picked for their versatility. Weinrauch makes you feel for her Kate Monster, especially when she's sad or angry. Labanaris, who's been seen several times here at Ocean State displays an amazing talent; he's funny and sweet as Princeton.

The sets could rival any off-Broadway production, and the band gleefully plays the catchy music "The Internet is for Porn," "It Sucks to be Me" and you'll be humming them at intermission. Overall Jason Parrish directs this capable and talented cast in a don't miss production. Just leave the young kids at home, unless you want to explain puppets having sex on the way home.

"Avenue Q" runs through August 23 at Ocean State Theatre Company, 1245 Jefferson Boulevard, Warwick, RI 02886. For information or tickets, call 401-921-6800 or visit www.oceanstatetheatre.org.