‘Avenue Q’ is now on at the Arts Club Theatre
By Angela Espinoza, Arts Editor
With a vodka-cran in hand, I sat and watched the theatre fill up around me. Opening night was packed with a largely adult, semi-formal audience, and it wasn’t until a very sweet looking elderly couple sat down beside me that I realized something: we were going to be watching some very cute puppets have some very graphic (simulated) sex.
The off-Broadway/on-Broadway hit by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx ended its six-year run in 2009, with local performances popping up elsewhere since. This is the first time Avenue Q has been performed at the Arts Club Theatre in Vancouver—and this is one of the best performances of the show I’ve ever seen. From the delightful puppeteering to amazing voice acting to incredible singing, Arts Club has pulled out all the stops on this one.
The show begins with a short, Sesame Street-like intro, with shots of the puppets walking around Vancouver as the show’s intro song (“The Avenue Q Theme”) is played. In walks a confused little puppet man named Princeton (controlled and voiced by Andrew MacDonald-Smith), who sings out to no one in particular, “What Do You Do With a B.A. in English?” He wanders into Avenue Q, an affordable, rundown area in New York (perhaps I should say Vancouver). Here he meets a slew of new friends and neighbours, such as Rod (also MacDonald-Smith) and Nicky (Scott Bellis), Trekkie Monster (also Bellis), flesh couple Christmas Eve (Shannon Chan-Kent) and Brian (Andy Toth), love interest Kate Monster (Kayla Dunbar), and superintendent Gary Coleman (Evangelia Kambites).
Here on Avenue Q, each of these colourful characters sing not about the problems of sharing or spelling, but of crappy relationships, repressed homosexuality, and desperately needing money. But the gang has fun too, such as learning to cope with the fact that “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist,” and realizing that “The Internet is for Porn,” and, again, enjoying the pleasures of hot, cloth action.
While on Avenue Q, Princeton makes some not-so-great friends: cabaret singer Lucy the Slut (also Dunbar) and the horribly misguided Bad Idea Bears (also Bellis and Jeny Cassady), who are always there to make your life a little bit worse.
But all the fun and vulgarity aside, Avenue Q has a very thought-provoking and heartfelt message at its core. Princeton’s main quest when he first moves in is to find his “purpose” in life, which becomes the running theme of the show. The ending isn’t exactly what you’d expect from a show like Avenue Q, but it does leave you thinking.
The cast is absolutely fantastic; the stars of the show keep the puppets in the limelight, and if you let your imagination run a little bit, the combination of puppet and actor is hilarious on its own. It’s difficult to pick standout performances from the great cast, but MacDonald-Smith, Bellis, Dunbar, and Chan-Kent were definitely the ones that stole the show.
There’s no question here that the Arts Club Theatre’s Avenue Q has to be seen by everyone. The show runs throughout July and ends August 3, so get tickets while you can because the show is likely to sell out. And hey, why not have a few beforehand at this alcohol-permitted theatre? Like the Bad Idea Bears say, “More drinks! More fun! Yay!”