'Avenue Q' is a delightful place to visit in New Milford
Brad Blake, the director of TheatreWorks New Milford's production of Avenue Q tries to describe the street in this very funny puppet musical that looks like Sesame Street. While there are some similarities, "alright, maybe its not exactly like your street." He reminds the audience to look past the exteriors of each of the wonderful and very human inhabitants of Avenue Q because they are "loaded with heart." "But feel free to laugh at them...I mean...come on...puppets are hilarious!" Especially in this delightful production loaded with a group of super talented actors/puppeteers under his skillful direction.
From the minute that the opening announcements recorded in character remind us that "f is for fun," this group kept the full opening night audience laughing. The way that the actors sharing their space with a puppet seemed to meld into one was an amazing thing to watch. For example, when Rod turned his head, his handler Mike L'Altrella turned his exactly the same way and his face bore the expression that the puppet could not. All the puppeteers had been well-trained in manipulating their characters, and they also brought their considerable acting skills to the stage to pull off acting alongside their puppets.
The non puppet roles included Jasmin Love Barbosa making her TheatreWorks debut in the role of child star Gary Coleman. Her fine singing voice made her memorable. Bomi Yim was a riot as the character Christmas Eve and had a super singing voice, and she pulled off the flashy and unique bridal gown she wore in the second act. Often a director at this theater (and most recently seen as Lady Bracknell in Earnest of What's in a Name?) Glenn Couture was pretty cute in the role of Brian and sang well. It was great to see him onstage again.
Now on to the puppeteers/actors. Jamison Daniels knocked it out of the park as the naughty Trekkie Monster, Nicky and the blue Bad Idea Bear. Mr. Daniels attended the Hartt School and is currently working on his original web series So Ya Wanna Be A Broadway Star?, a new comedic satire airing exclusively at BroadwayWorld.com. A writer and actor also working on this series is Patricia McCarthy, the bundle of talent that played Kate Monster. A lifelong fan of all things puppet, Ms. McCarthy has clearly found her calling. She gave a heartfelt performance as the furry kindergarten aide and oh boy, can she sing!
Carey Van Hollen did a great job with her various roles of the yellow Bad Idea Bear, teacher Mrs. T and the bombshell Lucy. The characters couldn't be more different and she was effective as them all.
I was wracking my brain as to where I had seen Mr. L'Altrella before and it finally came to me. He had done The Last Five Years at Phoenix Stage Company and had been so wonderful in the role of Jamie opposite Emily Diedrich. Here he exuded charm as Princeton and Rod with his beautiful tenor voice.
The two acts are punctuated with some cute original videos by the director and Zach Rosing Productions. The set by Richard Pettibone and Mr. Couture could have been pulled from an inner city avenue; the lady behind me commented that they "always have amazing sets here" and she was right. The costumes by Suzi Pettibone were perfect and the props included a homage to Jim Henson.
The small band located in what I would call the choir loft in this theater were conducted by Musical Director Charles Smith and featured Robert Kogut on percussion. They did a great job with this happy score.
I always enjoy Avenue Q and this production may be the best I will ever attend. Kudos to the outstanding cast and everyone who brought the show with music and lyrics by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx with a book by Jeff Whitty to life. I know that it is a long drive to New Milford from the Waterbury area, but I urge you not to miss this delightfully marvelous visit to Avenue Q.