"In cooking, as in all the arts, simplicity is a sign of perfection." - Curnonsky

Friday, February 1, 2008

"Avenue Q" Finds Itself a Home In Kalamazoo

Avenue Q is a fictional street in an unidentified borough of New York City where a multicultural gang of 20-and 30-something people and puppets struggle, sing, dance and otherwise poke fun at their disparing lives.

Thanks to the Kalamazoo Civic Theatre's pilot production of this Tony Award-winning Broadway musical, it's now in Kalamazoo with some "author-approved adjustments" to tame the irreverent show.

Without having seen the original production, the changes are undetectable - the show seems to lose none of its grit or edge. Avenue Q is a community in which a Republician investment banker is far more reprehensible than a gay artist; interracial relationships abound; monsters, also known as "people of fur" live side-by-side with blue and green faced puppets and black, white and Asian humans.

They all strive to find "purpose" in their lives and along the way make room for excessive drinking, Internet pornography, conversations about race and sexuality, explicit puppet sex (despite having no anatomy below the belly) and one-night stands, much of it at the behest of the bad-idea bears (fuzzy stuffed animals who cheer on destructive behavior).

Much of the show is downright hilarious, and it's driven by sassy musical numbers. The song titles "It Sucks to be Me," "Everyone's a Little Bit Racist," "The Internet is for Porn," and 'You Can Be as Loud as The Hell You Want" clearly give away their funny-because-it's-true messages.

The ensemble cast performances are solid, and this is remarkable because they're not just singing, not just dancing, not just acting; they're also puppeteering, and managing to do all of it brilliantly.

It's fascinating to watch how it all works: The puppets' faces don't change, but the actors manipulating the puppets are very expressive; in effect, they create a single character with one voice out of two - sometimes three -bodies.

My fellow coworker, Kristen, as the May West-inspired Lucy the Slut is particularly convincing.

The standing ovation given by the full house last night suggests there's a place for "Avenue Q" in Kalamazoo.

No comments: