Review: ‘Avenue Q’ hits it big at Manoa Valley Theatre
“Sesame Street” has such a prominent presence in American culture that “Avenue Q,” the Broadway parody of Jim Henson’s beloved children’s show, is easy to appreciate.
Mahalo for reading the Honolulu Star-Advertiser!
You're reading a premium story. Read the full story with our Print & Digital Subscription.
Already a subscriber? Log in now to continue reading this story.
“Sesame Street” has such a prominent presence in American culture that “Avenue Q,” the Broadway parody of Jim Henson’s beloved children’s show, is easy to appreciate. When Manoa Valley Theatre presented its own production of “Avenue Q” in 2011, the run was extended week after week until the show’s puppet characters had to leave for another previously scheduled booking. MVT’s new staging — presented as part of MVT’s 50th-anniversary season — is off to similar success. A week of shows was added to the run before the show opened Thursday.
The new production lives up to expectations in all respects.
Princeton, newly graduated from college with a degree in English and absolutely no job prospects, arrives on Avenue Q looking for an apartment to rent (he started on Avenue A and had to come this far down the alphabet to find a place he could afford). The neighborhood is populated by humans and puppets — some of the puppets are more or less humanoid, others are monsters. Gary Coleman — yes, the former child star of the television sitcom “Diff’rent Strokes,” now down on his luck — is portrayed as the super of the building.
>> Where: Manoa Valley Theatre, 2833 E. Manoa Road
>> When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday; also 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 4 p.m. Sundays through Feb. 3
>> Cost: $40 general admission; $35 seniors and military with ID; $22 age 25 and younger (must be at least 13 years old)
>> Info: 988-6131, manoavalleytheatre.com
Princeton’s neighbors include Nicky and Rod, two single men who share an apartment; Trekkie Monster; Christmas Eve, a Japanese immigrant with a stereotypical Asian-immigrant accent; Brian, an unemployed Jewish comedian in his early 30s; and Kate Monster, a bachelorette who looks as feminine as the other female puppets but describes herself using the politically correct term “person of fur.”
Where “Sesame Street” is a platform for teaching children and giving them basic social skills, “Avenue Q” creators Jeff Whitty (book) and Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx (music and lyrics) use “Sesame Street”-style songs laced with “four-letter word” vocabulary to teach social skills to adults. The songs include “It Sucks to Be Me,” “If You Were Gay,” “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist,” “The Internet Is for Porn” and “You Can Be as Loud as the Hell You Want (When You’re Making Love).” That last one is the soundtrack for a sexual encounter between two naked puppets who loudly enjoy various sexual positions while several of their neighbors do a song-and-dance number and cheer them on.
The MVT show is a milestone for Bailey Barnes (Gary Coleman), who was last seen as squeaky-clean Dorothy Gale in “The Wiz” at Paliku Theatre in September. Barnes shows here that she can handle “four-letter” words and other “adult” material with the same professional finesse.
Jody Bill (Kate Monster) re-creates her portrayal of Kate Monster in the 2011 show with excellent results. As in 2011, Bill makes Kate Monster’s biggest number, “There’s a Fine, Fine Line,” the emotional highlight of the show.
Comic showcase musical numbers include Pedro Armando Haro (Rod) doing a great job with “My Girlfriend, Who Lives in Canada,” a frantic attempt by one of the bachelor roommates to defuse rumors that he’s gay, and Aiko Schick (Christmas Eve) having a great time with a politically incorrect tongue-twister, “The More You Ruv Someone.” Sage Foi (Trekkie Monster) is an instant audience favorite as the unapologetic advocate of porn on the internet.
And there’s more! Dan Connell and Rache’ Sapla are a delightful team as the Bad Idea Bears, two free spirits who always do their best to lure other characters into making bad decisions. Lindsey Rabe (Lucy the Slut) works the heck out of the double-entendres in her big burlesque house comedian number, “Special.”