Thursday, October 22, 2009

Avenue Q

"Avenue Q" at New World Stages, October 19, 2009

Coming off its successful 6-year run on Broadway, Avenue Q returns transfers to another open-ended off-Broadway engagement. New World Stages has just taken a large artistic step forward in its production quality, adding this Tony-winning show to its roster of continuing shows. This is not the first unconventional step for this show. Where most shows normally follow an initial Broadway run with a national tour, Avenue Q headed directly for Las Vegas for a sit-down production first.

With set, props, and for the most part, cast, intact, Avenue Q is still a tight, funny, irreverent send-up of TV's Sesame Street. The muppet-like puppets, mixed with single character actors tell the story of Princeton, a new college graduate living in New York and trying to find his "purpose" in life. With only an entry-level salary, he can't afford Manhattan and ends up on Avenue Q, far in the outer boroughs.

Seth Rettberg takes on the puppet roles of Princeton and Rod, the closeted investment banker, giving a terrific (if diaphoretic) performance. Matching his energy is Anika Larsen, as Kate Monster and Lucy T. Slut. She sounds a LOT like Stephanie D'Abruzzo, but makes the roles her own. Nicholas Kohn seemed to be phoning it in as Brian, the out-of-work comedian. (I was a little surprised to see that he had been part of the Broadway cast.) The other standout is Maggie Lakis, taking on one of the Bad Idea Bears among other supporting puppets.

The sets only occasionally feel cramped in the 350 seat house and the sound quality could use a tweak here and there, but it's nice to see this show find yet another life in New York.

Congratulations to the producers at New World Stages for keeping this show alive. I hope they're talking to 39 Steps about making a similar transfer.

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