At Bank of America Theatre, 18 W. Monroe
Book by Jeff Whitty
Based on an original concept by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx
Music and lyrics by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx
Directed by Jason Moore
Thru May 9th
Running time: Two hours and ten minutes includes a fifteen intermission.
Reviewed by Katy Walsh
‘The internet is for porn’. ‘Everyone is a little racist’. ‘The more you love someone, the more you want to kill them.’ After growing up on Sesame Street, it’s a natural move to Avenue Q to learn adult life lessons. Emphasis on ADULT! Broadway in Chicago and Work Light Productions presents AVENUE Q, the 3-time Tony Award winning musical. Princeton is unemployed. Kate is underemployed. Rod is in love with his straight roommate. Trekkie is a monster addicted to porn. What do they have in common? They are all struggling to find self-identity, purpose, love, and the occasional one night stand. Oh, and they are all puppets! It’s not the Muppets from childhood memories where Miss Piggy flirts with Kermit. These puppets cuss, drink and screw. The phrase ‘finger puppet’ is redefined during a hot steamy sex scene. AVENUE Q unleashes puppets gone wild! Grown-up situations with a side of childhood whimsy results in entertaining adult education!
AVENUE Q is what happens when puppets and humans live together in an apartment managed by former child star Gary Coleman. Main tenants Jacqueline Grabois (Kate Monster, Lucy), Brent Michael DiRoma (Princeton, Rod), Michael Liscio, Jr. (Nicky, Trekkie Monster, Bear) and Kerri Brackin (Mrs. T, Bear) have mastered puppet shadowing. It’s like when people start to look like their dogs. With this crew, it’s a hard decision to look at their face or their puppet?
It all becomes very fluid and natural as they mime puppet action. At some point, you blur it together either forgetting they are humans with puppets or puppets with humans. Their voices in song and dialogue distinctly change for different characters. Blended in with their supporting human cast members, Nigel Jamaal Clark (Gary Coleman), Lisa Helmi Johanson (Christmas Eve) and Tim Kornblum (Brian), the fast-paced show is energetic and lively.
Robert Lopez, Jeff Marx and Jeff Whitty have developed an original with AVENUE Q. Dramatic scenarios, like coming out, job searches, breaking up, find the funny when acted out by puppets. Throw in Gary Coleman and stereotyped humans, it’s pure puppet pageantry comedy! The songs are hilarious with sometimes surprisingly insightful lyrics. ‘Everything in life is only for now.’ This profound statement is from the mouths of puppets. Humans should be so insightful. And Whitty, your dialogue sure is! For the next revival, if you want to break the fourth wall set up this banter: ‘Hey boy, did you know you have a puppet on your hand?’ ‘No, I’m a puppet with a boy stuck up my ass!’
The opposite of schadenfreude, Steve describes the show as a “fucking great time! 1,2,3…”
WAITING FOR THE SHOW
A block from Avenue Q is the Palmer House Hotel, 17 E. Monroe. Potter is the lobby bar… emphasis on lobby. The hotel has transformed its lobby into a hip bar with multiple cluster seating of couches and tables. Among the ornate ceilings and pillars of yesteryear, business professionals gather for happy hour. Potter is bustling! Steve and I wait for the corner of the communal table to be cleared. The Tuesday night special is half-price wine on select bottles. We order up the cabernet with a couple of small plates. The flatbread with wild mushrooms and prosciutto disappoints. It looks and tastes thrown together. The sliders, on the other hand, are a sampling of flavors. It’s as elegant as sliders can possibly be. Three sandwiches one each of Kobe beef, lamb chop and crab cake. Each marinated in its own special sauce. Fresh and tasty! Our server is very friendly and offers to put the bill on our room. We consider that option for a moment. But sans a room, we resist, pay and stroll down to Avenue Q.
In the afterglow of steamy puppet sex, Steve and I head to The Gage, 24 S. Michigan for a luscious Malbec. Although owner Billy Lawless is sadly absent, we are joined by Sharri and her sidekick, Bunny about Town on Chicago Now. Over drinks, it’s apparent we are all taking a little life lesson from AVENUE Q into our real life. Steve’s internet interest is reinforced. Sharri redefines com-mitment. Bunny knows every room needs one night stand. Me? It’s a wake-up call when puppets screwing is a turn-on.
Filed under: Broadway In Chicago
Tags: Billy Lawless, Broadway In Chicago, Bunny about Town, Jacqueline Grabois, Jason Moore, Jeff Marx, Jeff Whitty, Jr., Katy Walsh, Kerri Brackin, Lisa Helmi Johnson, Michael DiRima, Michael Liscio, Nigel Jamaal, Palmer House, Review "Avenue Q", Robert Lopez, The Gage, Tim Kornblum, Work Light Productions