Phoenix’s ‘Avenue Q’ brings the laughs

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The Phoenix Theatre’s production of Robert Lopez’s and Jeff Marx’s “Avenue Q,” which finished its run on Sunday, was an apt capturing of the puppeted satire, keeping audience members rolling in laughter throughout.

Emily Ristine as Kate Monster, left, with Ben Tebbe’s Princeton

The musical has always held a special place in my heart, not entirely undue to the similarities between its plot and my own experiences. Led by the idealistic Princeton (played by Ben Tebbe), a just-out-of-college puppet with a “useless degree” in English and a burning desire to find his purpose, “Avenue Q” tells the tale of a group of tenants in a New York apartment who’re all trying to figure out their purpose in life – with varying degrees of success.

The Phoenix’s production featured a versatile performance from Claire Wilcher, playing both the lecherous-but-lovable Trekkie Monster and the lecherous-but-lustable Lucy the Slut. The latter puppet’s appearance strayed from the traditional buxom blonde into a more Kardashian-esque figure with Day-Glo orange skin … and that might be more appropriate for today’s audiences.

As ever, the Bad Idea Bears’ endearingly terrible advice kept audiences laughing. The puppets were played by Jason Gloye and Eric J. Olson, who doubled as Rod and Nicky, respectively, and each shared an unsettling resemblance to their puppets.

The real star of the production, however, was theater veteran Emily Ristine’s Kate Monster, who brought a perfect mix of bookish naivete and grab-life-by-the-horns enthusiasm to the character.

Other notable performances included Diane Tsao Boehm’s dual role as Christmas Eve and Mrs. Thistletwat, Dakeisha Bryant’s down-on-his-luck Gary Coleman, and Brian, played appropriately by R. Brian Noffke, who seemed not at all uncomfortable playing one of the few human characters on a stage of puppets.

The Phoenix Theatre’s production of “Avenue Q” was directed by Bryan Fonseca and musical director Kevin D. Smith. The next show at the Phoenix will be “Forever Sung: A Celebration of Age in Song,” created by Bryan Fonseca and Tim Brickley. The show will run May 17-26. More information and tickets are available online at www.phoenixtheatre.org.


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