Tuesday, May 29, 2018

We've Got Puppets And Monsters on “Avenue Q” In Carlsbad

“Avenue Q” with music and lyrics by Jeff Marx and Robert Lopez and book by Jeff Whitty is an equal opportunity offender: Jews, Blacks, Gays, big corporations, bosses you name it are all fair game.

If one of the opening numbers “Everybody’s a Little Bit Racist” wets your appitite check it out for yourselves. It will be playing at New Village Arts Theatre through July 1st.

The show opened in 2003 where it ran over 2,566 productions over six years. It won the triple crown of Tony’s in 2004 for Best Musical, Best Score and Best book.
Cast of "Avenue Q" at NVA
I can’t remember when it last ran in San Diego, but ‘Welcome Back” y’all and hat’s off to NVA director AJ Knox who is making his mainstage directorial debut. Musical director Nina Gilbert and her four musicians, seen only at the end of the show, are the backbone to all the musical numbers and they are spot on terrific.

Picture an episode of the "Muppets" or "Sesame Street" for adults.  That’s right, an adult puppet show (with help from Puppet Coach Lynne Jennings, chief administrator of the San Diego Guild of puppetry and teacher of puppetry at all levels) that is a take off of the popular kids anthem, ‘Sesame Street’ and “The Muppets”.
Steven Freitas, Ciarlene Coleman with Princeton
Even though you would never hear “It Sucks To Be Me” on Sesame Street the folks on “Avenue Q" have aged a bit and are confronting a new and grownup world that is clearly intimidating to them.

There  are ten character puppets manipulated by six puppeteers and four humans running around “Avenue Q”,. They are all worth their weight in gold and not one of them sucks and most are looking for their purpose, trying to better themselves, are afraid to grow up or just plain can’t grow up.

Here’s the setup: “This is real life” -Princeton (an excellent Zackary Scot Wolfe who also plays Rod), is a recent college graduate who can’t find work or an affordable place to live.

Chris Bona, Tony Houck and Zackart Scott Wolfe with friends 
Princeton begins looking for an apartment on ‘Avenue A’ and the best he can afford is on Avenue Q, a low rent, district ,cleverly designed borough neighborhood (Christopher Scott Murillo) where folks who are out of work, looking for work, looking to move up or are in low paying jobs just getting by, reside. Would they leave if they could? Maybe some, but for others it's just the right atmosphere. 

Here we have the cross section of Americana: Gary Coleman from long ago “Different Strokes” played in her own special style of  panache by Cashae Monya  the Black super and super she is as Coleman.

Rod (Scott) is the conservative, in denial closet gay, Republican investment banker. (“If You Were Gay”) 

Nicky who is straight played by Tony Houck also plays Trekkie Monster (“The Internet is for Porn”) is between jobs, a slob and Rod’s roommate.

Jasmine January with Good Idea -Bad Idea Bears
Brian “I’m Not Wearing Underwear Today” (Steven Freitas) is a wannabe comedian and Christmas Eve (Ciarlene Colman) Brian's Japanese fiancée and therapist (without clients), and his soon to be wife are the token interracial couple.

Ciarlene (“The More You Ruv Someone”) is a hoot and has a beautiful set of vocal chords. A graduate of the Music Dep. at UC San Diego she composes original music.

Kate Monster (Gerilyn Brault) is an assistant kindergarten teacher hot on the heels of closet gay Princeton. Brault, assertive almost to the point of agressiveness as Kate poushes the envelope on behalf of her other self and she is perfect.
Melisa Fernandes and Lucy the Slut
Lucy (always on target Melissa Fernandes is a ‘girl gone wild’ entertainer (read slut)  “Special”. Great choice as Lucy.

Chris Bona and Jasmine January play Bad Idea Bears. And there you have it; a cross section of the good, the bad and the...well you get it.

From the opening song, “Can’t pay the bills yet/ ‘cause I don’t have the skills yet” to “It Sucks to be Me” to “The Internet is for Porn” to the little ‘how to first time sex (with the puppets of course and…somewhat graphic, I might add.), to love and rejection to coming out, are all on the line.
Gerilyn Brault with Kate Monster
Houck who plays several of the puppets is outstanding in whatever he does but is particularly excellent as one of the puppeteers manipulating his two characters.

Melissa Fernandes is also Lucy and Kate Monster’s school principal Mrs Thistlewat. She nails Lucy with every throwback of her head and wink of her false eyelashes eyes.

Did I see that some other Fernandes’ (Manny, Bella and Jack) that are mentioned as additional voices?  Love it.

Director A.J. Knox along with choreographer of both puppets and actors Jenna Ingraassia-Knox, Chris Renda’s lighting, projections by Melanie Chen Cole and Elisa Benzoni designed the costumes.

New Village Arts and the ensemble from Avenue Q deserve ‘high fives' for bringing such a fun filled and well nuanced production to our fair city.


See you at the theatre.

Dates: Through July1st
Organization: New Village Arts Theatre
Phone: 760-433-3245
Production Type: Musical
Where: 2787 State Street, Carlsbad, CA 92008
Ticket Prices: Start at $47.00
Web: newvillagearts.org
Photo: Daren Scott

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