Four County Players’ side-splitting performance of “Avenue Q” by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx has something in it for just about everyone – okay, definitely not kids, but pretty much everyone else.
The musical follows the story of Princeton, a recent college graduate who also happens to be Sesame Street-esque puppet. As he moves into a less-than-appealing New York City neighborhood all the way out on Avenue Q, Princeton struggles to navigate dating, unemployment and the pursuit to discover life’s meaning. Hilarity ensues as Princeton meets new friends, new opportunities and even his own demons in the form of the cuddly but destructive “bad idea bears.”
While the show delivers all of the expected shock value that comes from intertwining the puppetry with adult themes, what comes as a surprise is how genuinely heartfelt the storyline is. Hidden just underneath its veneer of sex jokes and dark humor, “Avenue Q” packs a philosophical punch that urges viewers to approach the inherent uncertainty and brevity of life with acceptance and kindness. For Princeton and his friends, the search to find themselves only succeeds when they are able to shift the focus away from the self and toward helping others.
In the Four County Players’ production, the quality of the original material was even further enhanced by a cast of entertaining, endearing performances. Victoria Clement shone as Kate Monster, an utter romantic whose initially laughable idealism softens into loveable authenticity as the show progresses. Anders Coe, playing the part of actor-turned-landlord Gary Coleman, perfectly captured the spirit of Coleman while making the character his own with magnetic charisma and strong stage presence. In terms of vocal performance, Thomas Isaac Collins showed impressive range in both pitch and expression as Rod, an uptight accountant fighting with both his roommate and his identity.
Set design was equally effective, with the simple apartment building backdrop managing to convey both the bleakness and undeniable magic of the New York City landscape. Costume and puppet design were faithful to the style of the original Broadway production, giving each character a recognizable, somewhat clichéd persona from the moment they entered the stage and adding to the show’s cleverness as those stereotypes were addressed and often subverted.
A truly laugh-out-loud musical, “Avenue Q” would be worth seeing if only for its raunchy humor, but ultimately the show delivers a whole lot more than that. Audiences both familiar with and new to musical theater will love its surprising insightfulness and creative contributions to the genre. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to see Four County Players in “Avenue Q” because this brilliant production, like “everything in life, is just for now.”
“Avenue Q” runs weekends through May 20 on the Four County Players Mainstage. Friday and Saturday night performances are at 8 p.m. and Sunday matinees are at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $16 for adults and $15 for seniors and students. All Friday tickets are $10. To purchase tickets, contact 832-5355 or firstname.lastname@example.org. No children’s tickets will be sold as the show is intended for mature audiences only. For more information, visit www.fourcp.org.