Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe

Avenue Q
Musical Theatre Southwest
Review by Stephanie Hainsfurther


Setting an adult musical based on "Sesame Street" in Manhattan's Alphabet City is a cute concept, and there are many cute concepts in Avenue Q at Musical Theatre Southwest. The puppets look like Muppets (unendorsed by Jim Henson Company or Disney or Sesame Workshop), the set is a streetscape, and there are real actors mixed in with the puppets. But don't bring the kids. This show is for grown-ups who can laugh at bad language, a crazy-wild sex scene between two puppets, and a Miss Piggy lookalike with a Jessica Rabbit persona. And a song called "The Internet is for Porn."

Recent college graduate Princeton (voice and puppetry by "Joe" Angelo Gallegos) has moved to New York City for a promised job ("What Do You Do with a B.A.in English?"). He is laid off before he can even work there. This gives Princeton and failed stand-up comic Brian ((Nathan "Nate" Chavez) a chance to moan about their lives ("It Sucks to Be Me"), joined by Brian's wife Christmas Eve (Alice Liu Cook) and Kate Monster (voice and puppetry by Bonnie Utter), a teacher's aide who wants to found her own school for little monsters.

The song is a clever way to introduce Princeton's new neighbors. They all join in, and pretty soon we know Trekkie Monster the porn surfer (voice and puppetry by Garrett Losack); the closeted gay guy Rod (voice and puppetry by Ron Gallegos) and his roommate Nicky (voice and puppetry by Tanner Sroufe); and none other than Gary Coleman, the former child-actor-turned-building-superintendent (Moe Copeland). Their diversity and good-natured insult swapping prompt a hilarious and true song, "Everyone's a Little Bit Racist."

Topical songs keep coming, covering serious subjects written in the spirit of satire and mirth. Brian tries a stand-up routine at the Around the Clock Cafe ("I'm Not Wearing Underwear Today"). Rod is adamant that he is not gay ("My Girlfriend Who Lives in Canada"). Princeton mourns a lost relationship while his friends show him that "There Is Life Outside Your Apartment." Characters sing the wistful lament "I Wish I Could Go Back to College." This show will take you back to your own 20-something struggles to find and forge a life of "Purpose."

In case you think that hiding behind a puppet is easy work for actors, think again. Each stage human takes on the expressions and emotions of the puppet s/he manipulates, all while singing, dancing, and ending up in the right spot. Some of the puppets require two sets of hands. They should invent a new word for it—"multitasking" seems too mild a term.

At the performance I attended, the audience caught the energy of the young cast, whose ebullience and distinct delight at presenting Avenue Q stands out, deftly corralled by director William R. Stafford. Kudos to Megan Bryant, whose puppetry and voicing of Lucy T. Slut and others make those minor characters as important as the rest. You'll feel like you're being embraced by a generation who wants you to understand their issues, while we all laugh at them and ourselves.

Through July 31, 2016, Musical Theatre Southwest Center for Theatre, 6320 Domingo Rd. NE, (505) 265-9119, musicaltheatresw.com


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