Princeton has finally graduated from university and finds himself unemployed, single and unsure about what to do with the rest of his life. At least he has a great new apartment on Avenue Q! TotoToo Theatre presents the Tony Award-winning musical about that awkward post-college period of your life – with puppets!
Should you see it?
Avenue Q is an excellently written, hilarious parody of a children’s show by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx. It’s like Sesame Street meets Girls or any other show about being broke and confused in your mid-20s. Basically, if hearing Bert sing a secret love song to Ernie sounds like something you’d enjoy, this is the show for you.
Everything about TotoToo’s production is professional, from the game ensemble cast to the beautiful set. The backdrop placed us on a charmingly dilapidated street corner. Tiny doll furniture was wheeled around on a block designed as a recycling bin to represent apartment interiors, and it was too cute to be believed.
This production plays around with a lot of children’s television conceits, the most obvious being puppets interacting with humans and chipper educational songs – except this time, the songs cover topics such as homosexuality, pornography, having loud sex, and so much more. Avenue Q even has its own celebrity guest: child star turned landlord Gary Coleman! He’s played with gusto and a great voice by Iyono Ede.
The rest of the cast does a great job of maintaining their energetic performances throughout both acts of Avenue Q. Pascal Viens and Patrick Teed in particular shared spectacular chemistry as roommates Nicky and Rod (the Bert and Ernie stand-ins, of course). In fact, I was almost more compelled by their relationship than the central one between Princeton and his neighbor Kate Monster, played by Andrew Galligan and Alianne Rozon.
Galligan and Rozon do make a charming pair, although I must say that it took me some time to warm up to Rozon’s performance as Kate Monster. However, by the end of act I, I was convinced. She performs one of Avenue Q’s few serious songs, “There’s a Fine, Fine Line,” with emotion and really connects to the material. Andrew Galligan is engaging as Princeton, especially in the beginning as his wide-eyed optimism clashes with the downtrodden residents of the apartment building.
Jasmine Lee is delightfully energetic as Christmas Eve and Kodi Cannon is fun as Bryan, the two humans in the show who most represent your typical, diverse children’s television hosts. Mary Ellen Vice shines in the supporting parts she has, especially the heavily smoking, hilariously named Mrs. Thistletwat.
The puppets themselves were well-operated by all performers. I did enjoy that the performers controlling the puppets were not concealed. Since puppets have a limited range of emotion, this allowed the actors to add more emotional nuance to their performance.
Even though Avenue Q is heavily based on children’s television, it’s probably best to leave the kids at home for this one. That is, unless you’re prepared for a lot of potentially awkward questions.
Avenue Q is a raunchy puppet show with a heart and an uplifting message for people in their 20s: You’re not alone, and it does get better! I’ve been wanting to see a production of Avenue Q for years, and TotoToo Theatre did not disappoint.
But that’s just my opinion and I’d like to hear what you think. What was your favorite song? Did you enjoy the ensemble as much as I did? Join the discussion and leave a comment below!
Avenue Q runs at the Kailash Mital Theatre until June 20th.