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Avenue Q an unforgettable night of regional theatre

By Mary Hembree, Citizen News


When human foibles are presented to us by singing puppets we are not offended, we're doubled over in laughter slapping our knees. The residents of Avenue Q shake out the nastier parts of human nature through song and dance and we relish the opportunity to laugh at the unattractive bits we normally keep beneath the surface.

Avenue Q is an American play first performed on Broadway in July of 2003 winning three Tony Awards, including Best Musical. It went on to be one of the longest running shows in Broadway history before closing its Broadway run in 2009.

The TheatreWorks cast of Avenue Q is adorable, puppets and humans alike, brimming with talent that grips the audience and holds them tight. The full house at Friday night's performance rose to their feet in unison for a most deserved standing ovation.

Avenue Q is home to an eclectic group of souls, some with fur, all balancing the conundrum of life's trials and tribulations. Through a series of witty songs, they tell us their stories, warts and all. The play is wickedly naughty, never vulgar; and completely entertaining. Sometimes biting satire, sometimes sad and touching, but mostly laugh out loud funny.

Each actor in this ensemble, some in more than one role, makes Avenue Q an unforgettable night of regional theatre. Hell, this cast could be lifted and set right down on the "Great White Way" causing the same sold out performances they have in New Milford. They have my utmost praise.

Jamison Daniels and Carey Van Hollen, while maneuvering the puppets Nicky and Trekkie Monster, meld into one being and without ever looking at each other they traverse the Avenue in syncopated footwork that is amazing to behold. Mr. Daniels' range is incredible and although he literally becomes Nicky, he is astounding as Trekkie Monster, with a voice, as you can imagine, not of this earth. In what seems like a blink he skillfully moves from puppet to puppet, smoothly switching from one character to the next. He's a joy!

Carey Van Hollen morphs before our eyes into the vampy Lucy and makes that puppet dance, flirt, and….well not to spoil things I'll leave the rest to your imagination. Ms. Van Hollen has the uncanny ability to change the action with just the lift of an eyebrow or the sway of her hips. When she sashays Lucy around the Avenue, she commands your undivided attention. Ms. Van Hollen is devilish as Bad Idea Bear, almost gleeful in her taunts and just plain hysterical as Mrs. T.

Mike L'Altrella is first on stage as Princeton and he is mesmerizing. His vast arrays of expressions are so precise if he didn't speak you'd still know what is happening. Mr. L'Altrella's energy charges off the stage and invigorates the audience in the most appealing way. Mike L'Altrella has most assuredly found his purpose!

Patricia McCarthy makes us want to hug Kate Monster and take all her troubles away. Ms. McCarthy's incredible voice rings out pure and clear and is never more beautifully showcased than when she performs "There's a Fine, Fine, Line." Kate Monster embodies all the passion of a young person starting out, well in this case a young monster, and Patricia McCarthy is exceptional in bringing this furry young woman to life.

Christmas Eve is such an enchanting name and Bomi Yim kicks this character a little left of center with a delightful portrayal of a strong, bossy woman who may be new to the Avenue but not to the ways of life. In a nutshell, Ms. Yim is funny and makes Christmas Eve campy with a touch of genuine sympathy for her neighbors.

And here comes Gary Coleman, straight from real life, and adding another insane dimension to this already zany crew. Jasmin Love Barbosa tricks us into thinking Gary Coleman is on the stage balancing her performance with just enough boyish charm and weary disappointment.

Rounding out this rich cast is Glenn R. Couture as Brian. Engaged to Christmas Eve, 32 years old and just laid off from his day job. An aspiring comedian, Brian is beginning to realize the clock is ticking, dwindling down the days for achieving his goal. Mr. Couture is amazingly natural as Brian, giving us an affable guy who is just not ready to let go of his dream.

Bradford Blake has outdone himself with this production, guiding the enormous talents of this unique cast and delivering a crackling, energetic piece of theatre. Well done!

Charles Smith's musical direction is brilliant and the numbers performed by this cast are exceptionally professional and fluid.

The set is clever, a big dresser of an apartment building with drawers that move in and out to change the scenes. The in-house band is icing on the cake and it all comes together in perfect unison.

There are many gifted and talented people involved in this production from Costume Design to Puppet Instructor and although space does not permit listing everyone here, I would be remiss not to mention the Band without whom there just wouldn't be a play. Take a bow – Charles Smith, Musical Director (Conductor/Keyboard I), Victor Perpetua (Keyboard II), Ann Howell (Reeds), Charles Casimiro (Bass) and Robert Kogut (Percussion) – you never missed a beat!!

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