Monday, October 8, 2012

"Avenue Q"

Princeton.  Photo Credit:  Boulder's Dinner Theatre

Music/Lyrics:  Robert Lopez & Jeff Marx

Book:  Jeff Whitty

Boulder’s Dinner Theatre, 5501 Arapahoe Avenue, Boulder, CO

CompanyBoulder’s Dinner Theatre, 5501 Arapahoe Avenue, Boulder, CO

Date of Performance:  Thursday, October 4, 2012

Running Time:  2 hours (includes 20 minute intermission).

Hypothetical question:  Assume you’re a producer of Broadway musicals.  Someone wants to pitch an idea to you.  It’s a contemporary musical, using puppets, and it’s described as “Sesame Street Meets South Park.”  It’s got everything:  music, humor, satire, sarcasm, gay puppets, monsters, racism, and it asks the musical question:  “What Do You Do With a B.A. in English?”  (The irony of asking that question in Boulder was not lost on the audience.)

Oh.  It also has puppets doing naughty things.

So…as a producer, do you green light this project and invest millions of dollars in it?  No…of course you wouldn’t.  Neither would I. 

And we would both be wrong. 

Avenue Q” won the Tony Awards “Triple Crown” (Best Musical, Best Score, Best Book) in 2004.  And as Boulder’s Dinner Theatre amply demonstrates, “Avenue Q” deserves the awards, recognition, and praise that have been heaped on it since its debut.
The plot is Sesame Street simple.  Princeton (Brett Ambler) is an unemployed twenty something college graduate lost in the city and looking for his “Purpose.”  Boy puppet Princeton meets girl puppet Kate Monster (Ellen Kaye).  Girl puppet falls in love with boy puppet.  You can probably see where this is going, but revealing more would spoil the fun. 

The entire production is first rate from start to finish.  The two-story set is both impressive and functional.  The lights, sound, and live music are seamless.  And the stars of the show, the puppets, are colorful, creative, and in their own way, beautiful. 

But the not so secret ingredient here is the cast that Director Scott Beyette has put on the BDT stage.  Actors in “Avenue Q” do not just deliver their lines.  They perform as if they are the puppets, bringing their characters alive through a hand held prop.  It’s amazing to watch; the cast here totally blurs the line between puppet and actor.  They become one presence with two parts. 

BDT Avenue Q Cast.  Photo Credit:  Boulder's Dinner Theatre
This is a very strong ensemble; there is no weak link.  They bring the right mix of playfulness (“It Sucks to Be Me,” “My Girlfriend Lives in Canada,” “I’m Not Wearing Underwear Today”) and emotion (“A Mix Tape,” “It’s a Fine, Fine Line”) to the music.  They are high energy, talented actors, and the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.  They are truly a pleasure to watch on the BDT stage.

Neal Dunfee’s live musicians are hidden behind the set; they are heard but not seen.  That’s a shame, because they are pitch perfect. 

Avenue Q” is not exactly a conventional Broadway musical.  It’s NOT “The Sound of Music.”  It delves into some sensitive subjects (“If You Were Gay,” “The Internet is for Porn”), and it offends nearly everybody (“Everyone’s A Little Bit Racist”)Avenue Q” is a risky offering for Boulder’s Dinner Theatre.  Producing Artistic Director Michael Duran deserves a great deal of credit for bringing it to the BDT stage. 

I probably wouldn’t have invested in the original concept.  That would explain why I’m neither a Broadway producer nor wealthy beyond my wildest dreams.  I would have totally missed the boat on a genuine hit show.  

Avenue Q” may not be for everybody, but for Boulder’s Dinner Theatre company, this production is an artistic triumph.  For the rest of us, it is a rare and special treat.  If you don’t have tickets, get them.  Now. 


This show runs through Saturday, November 3, 2012.  This production includes adult themes and adult language.  Not recommended for children. 

For those who prefer family friendly fare, Boulder’s Dinner Theatre has often brought you great theater, such as “Cinderella.” 

Families will also be pleased with upcoming productions of “The Gift,” and “The Differentest School of All.”  Both productions are part of Boulder’s Dinner Theatre “Kids Kabaret” program.) 

If “Avenue Q” is not for you, book the family for any of the “Kids Kabaret” programs, or “42nd Street” (opens November 9, 2012) or “The Wizard of Oz (Summer 2013).

Director/Choreographer:  Scott Beyette  

Costume Design:  Linda Morken

Music Conductor:  Neal Dunfee


Princeton/Rod:  Brett Ambler

Kate Monster/Lucy the Slut:  Ellen Kaye

Trekkie Monster/Nicky/Boy Bad Idea Bear:  Seth Caikowski

Gary Coleman:  Ashlie-Amber Harris

Brian:  Scott Beyette/Brian Jackson

Christmas Eve:  MariJune Scott

Mrs. Thistletwat/Girl Bad Idea Bear:  Tracy Warren

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