AVENUE QMusic and Lyrics by Robert Lopez & Jeff Marx, Book by Jeff Whitty
Music Theatre of Denton
Produced by Jason Joos and Erin Turek
Directed by Bill Kirkley
Music Direction by David K. Pierce
Choreography by Stephanie Felton
Assistant Direction and Stage Management by Rob Stadt
Set Design by Bill Kirkley
Special Costume Design by Marsha Keffer
Puppet Design and Creation by Imagined Creations
Lighting Design by Vicki Kirkley
Sound Design by Heather Augustine
Video Design by Zach Rosing & Ben Phillippe
Special Projection Design by Mike Hathaway
Princeton - Matt Purvis
Kate - Nikki Cloer
Brian - Eric Ryan
Christmas Eve - Olivia Emile
Gary Coleman - Erica Cole
Rod - Chris Jordan
Nicky - Justin Harmon
Trekkie - Ted Minette
Lucy - Kelsey Macke
Bear 1/Mrs. T. - Anna Marie Boyd
Bear 2/Ricky - Travis Turek
Reviewed Performance: 3/4/2012
Reviewed by Richard Blake, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Avenue Q is a laugh-out-loud musical that tells the timeless story of a recent college grad named Princeton who moves into a shabby New York apartment all the way out on Avenue Q. There, he meets Kate (the girl next door), Rod (the Republican), Trekkie (the internet s*xpert), Lucy the slut (enough said), and other colorful types who help Princeton finally discover his purpose in life. Its characters lament that as children they were assured by their parents, and by children's television programs such as PBS's Sesame Street, that they were "special" and "could do anything"; but as adults, they have discovered to their surprise and dismay that in the real world their options are limited, and they are no more "special" than anyone else. The musical is also notable for the use of puppets alongside human actors.
Originally conceived as a television series, the show was developed as a stage production for the 2002 National Music Theatre Conference at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, Connecticut. It opened Off Broadway in March 2003, co-produced by The New Group and the Vineyard Theatre, and transferred to Broadway in July 2003 where it won three Tony Awards, including Best Musical, and spawned Las Vegas and West End productions, two national tours, and a variety of international productions.
With 2,534 performances, Avenue Q ranks 21st on the list of longest running shows in Broadway history. The show ended its Broadway run on September 13, 2009, and 5 1/2 weeks later reopened in the New World Stages complex on West 50th Street, where it continues to play as an Off Broadway production.
The program cover for this show states ?North Texas Regional Amateur Premiere?. This production is definitely NOT amateur in any aspect at all. The ensemble cast is superb, the entire production quality is top-notch, and from the look of the sold out house on a Sunday matinee, people noticed!!
Direction by Bill Kirkley takes this show to wonderful levels of entertainment. I have seen the show before but my guest had not. She was all-out laughing, smiling and completely entertained the entire time, as was the rest of the audience. That is testament to a great director casting his performers perfectly, letting their amazing talent shine, and keeping the entire show moving in the right direction. There is never a moment out of place, an actor that seems uncomfortable or a scene that doesn?t flow well. Mr. Kirkley also acts as Set Designer and gives you a colorful, detailed and fully interactive experience with his design.
The moment you walk into the theatre you?re presented with a striking set of New York City?s ?Avenue Q? including sliding doors, windows, and extraordinary scenic painting that make a perfect location for the show. Simple details like tennis shoes hanging from the power lines and ?Kilroy Was Here? eyes everywhere just make you giggle, and for this show, that?s perfect. Excellent job Mr. Kirkley with both your efforts.
Musical Direction by David K. Pierce is simply wonderful. Mr. Pierce has great talent to work with, and every decision he chooses musically for this cast is executed well. This is a highly comedic show but it still has some amazing songs that need to be handled appropriately, especially with actors performing in character voices, and in this production they are executed flawlessly. Mr. Pierce is also the conductor of a superb live orchestra that accompanies the show. It is so good, I can?t tell if the music is live or pre-recorded (the orchestra isn?t seen), and that in itself is an amazing feat.
Lighting design by Vicki Kirkley is colorful, timed perfectly and creates wonderful atmospheres within the entire performance. Deep reds, blues and greens give the show a great cartoon-like feel and never once distract from the show. It is also very nice to see the correct use and placement of follow spots in the show. Ms. Kirkley does a wonderful job and has a great team executing her designs.
The sound design for this show is crucial and designer Heather Augustine pulls it off with excellence. The sound effects are timed perfectly, the balance of the live orchestra and microphones are spot-on and the integration of the live multimedia within the performance is perfect and never distracting.
Video design by Zach Rosing & Ben Phillippe with special projection design by Mike Hathaway is seamless. This is a talented team adding very special elements to the show. It is very clear, with the custom animations, videos and even an intermission countdown, this team works very hard to make it perfect. Congratulations to them all on achieving that goal.
The special costume design by Marsha Keffer teamed with the puppet design and creation by Imagined Creations work well. The actors not with puppets are costumed perfectly and show each character?s personality. The puppets are just amazing to see and you catch yourself watching only them and not their human operators and that?s exactly what is supposed to happen. There is nothing cheap looking with these creations and they work beautifully throughout the entire performance.
I normally comment differently when I?m discussing the individual actor?s performances, but this cast is making me do something I have never done in a performance review? actually admit I cannot give enough high praise to the ENTIRE ensemble cast!! Every one of them performs their roles with an excellence and professionalism that I have never seen in regional or community theatre productions. At intermission I actually looked at the program again to see if any of them were Equity performers and to my amazement NONE were.
This cast could immediately step right into the shoes of the current production running in NYC and get standing ovations, as they received at this sold out performance. Yes, they are all that good and very much deserved the ovation they received. Every cast member shines brightly when they have their moment and never once upstage or compete with each other.
The talent on stage is simply extraordinary and the artistic team that compiled it did an amazing job. In addition to their vocal and acting abilities, the puppet mastery they present is excellent. The cast members that have a ?puppet-counterpart? are so natural when performing it?s as if they are one with the puppet. These actors embody their non-human counterparts with great character voices, movement, expression and presentation. The actors without a puppet play to the puppets on stage and not to the actor controlling them, looking into their eyes, shaking hands, singing to them and yes, even kissing them as if they are actually real. There is nothing but perfection from this cast and every one of them should be extremely proud of their work? another standing ovation to each and every one of them!!
This is definitely a show you do not want to miss while it?s here in North Texas. If you do, you?ll miss an opportunity to be completely entertained, be sore from laughing and have an experience with amazing talent that is extraordinarily rare in community/regional theatre. Music Theatre of Denton has a smashing success with this production of Avenue Q!!
Music Theatre of Denton (The Campus Theatre)
214 West Hickory Street, Denton, TX 76201
Performances are Friday, March 9th at 8:00pm, Saturday, March 10 at 3:00 and 8:00pm, and Sunday, March 11th at 3:00pm.
Tickets are $20.00 adult, $18.00 senior (62+) &$10.00 students*
*THIS SHOW IS FOR ADULTS ONLY AND IS NOT FOR CHILDREN.
For info to purchase tix: www.musictheatreofdenton.com or call the box office at 940-382-1915, Monday-Friday 1-5 pm. The Box Office also opens for wal