“Avenue Q” – Phoenix Theatre

This review aired on KBAQ April 14, 2014


Phoenix Theatre
Phoenix, AZ

The delightfully wacky “Avenue Q” pictures contemporary life with a comically skewed look at our crazy lives through nine puppets operated by four puppeteers and three characters.  It’s a zany ride and the fine Phoenix Theatre production looks as good as the show did originally on Broadway and it plays with the necessary shenanigans and malarkey that turn it into a comic delight.

Jeff Whitty crafts a clever book from Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx’s original concept and the pair also contributes the funny songs that tell much of “Avenue Q’s” story.  The musical is set on a rundown street where a collection of young characters bemoan and mock life as they try to find a successful societal niche.  The characters represent the wacky people we are around every day including a constantly fighting engaged couple that includes non-practicing therapist Christmas Eve and her loser boyfriend Brian.  The street’s superintendent is Gary Coleman.  Other characters include Kate Monster, a smart but feisty woman, slutty Lucy, bookish and gay Rod who adores musical theater, and Princeton, a grad who has no idea what to do with his degree.

The show is sharply tied together by Robert Kolby Harper who stages and choreographs with his usual smart and sassy style creating a raunchier and funnier show than previous versions I’ve seen.  Harper has cleverly pieced together parts of the first PT production including the original set design, the original Broadway puppet designs, and some of his first cast.  He’s added new cast members who craft strong portraits of this motley collection of neighborhood dwellers.

Marisha Castle’s Christmas Eve and Pete Good’s Brian are especially good and they play off each other with delightfully snappy comic relish.  Emily Mulligan-Ferry plays Kate Monster and Lucy with forceful bravado.  Toby Yatso brings Rod and Princeton to very different but very exuberant lives.  Brittney Marks’ Gary Coleman is cleverly crafty and the puppeteers among the cast handle their puppets with ease as they sing and dance with élan.  Aya Nameth and Colin Ross play a variety of small roles with distinction.

“Avenue Q” is a raunchy but funny look at the misfits of our society.  It attacks many of the clichés we endure daily as it lets us laugh at the silliness of our lives.  You will be delighted and charmed by the very raunchy but smashingly delightful Phoenix Theatre “Avenue Q” production but it’s not for young kids.  “Avenue Q” continues through May 25.  For tickets, call the Phoenix Theatre box office at 602-254-2151 or order tickets online at www.phoenixtheatre.com.

Grade: A