Orange County Theatre Reviews

Photo Courtesy : AUSTIN BAUMAN

Written by Erin Tobin

School may be out, but there are still a lot of life lessons to be learned at the Maverick Theater in Fullerton. That’s where you’ll find Avenue Q, the Sesame Street parody that won Tony-Awards on Broadway for dealing out the harsh truths of the real world via whimsical songs, colorful puppets and an unapologetic lack of political correctness.

Told in a series of vignettes and performed mostly by actors using hand puppets, this musical follows a young college graduate named Princeton, puppeted and performed by Tyler McGraw, who has no idea what to do with his life now that he has his BA in English. A lack of funds leads him to Avenue Q (he started at Avenue A, but nothing was in his price range) a dingy and worn down collection of buildings in New York City, home to an eclectic group of characters as well as the building’s super, Gary Colman, played by Adair Gilliam and one of three non-puppet characters. Princeton’s new neighbors all agree it sucks being them, but they happily accept it as they figure out what to do with their lives. As Princeton tries to find his purpose, Kate Monster, puppeted by Rachel McLaughlan, tries to get a boyfriend. Nicky, puppeted by both Kevin Garcia and Jilly Pretzel at the same time like a conjoined twin duet, wants to help his roommate and best friend Rod, puppeted by Michael Rodriguez, feel comfortable enough to come out of the closet and Christmas Eve and her fiance Brian, played with brilliant vocal talent by Bachi Dillague and funny man Curtis Anderson, are both struggling to move past their young adult lifestyles and into more mature careers. Along the way, other puppeted characters both help and hinder the residents, such as the sultry Lucy the Slut, puppeted by a sultry Tara Alkazian, and the juvenile Bad Idea Bears.

For a production that got such rave reviews on the Broadway stages, paring it down to fit in the small space of the Maverick Theater seems risky, but the only thing the production seemed short on was space, since it was a full house. Emoting alongside the puppets they are controlling, the actors bring their characters to life while managing what is essentially a very cumbersome and yet important prop.This is especially true for Garcia who is responsible for not only Nicky but Trekkie Monster and one of the Bad Idea Bears as well, each with their own voices and quirks. McLaughlin and Dillague delight with their singing ranges and everyone energetically captures both the whimsical and cynical atmosphere of the musical.

Avenue Q certainly isn’t meant for children, even if the humor goes over their heads, the songs are pretty catchy and having a child burst into “The Internet is For Porn,” “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist,” or “You Can be as Loud as You Want (When You’re Making Love)” in public might be a bit embarrassing. Theatergoers who get easily offended might not have as much of a good time. Everyone else should head down to Avenue Q before the production ends July 18.

July 3 – July 18 2015 

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9.7 Overall
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