Avenue Q

Review by Willard Manus

The road company of the Tony Award-winning musical, AVENUE Q, draws non-stop laughs with its satirical but compassionate portrayal of the denizens of New York's Lower East Side, who range from an unemployable lit major to a failed stand-up comic to Gary Coleman, the washed-up-at-fifteen TV star. Joined by such additional characters as Kate Monster (a kindergarten teacher), Trekkie Monster (a porn freak) and Nicky and Rod (straight/gay roommates), the oddball cast of AVENUE Q are brought adroitly to life by the show's puppeteer/actors.

Robert McClure, Cole Porter (real name), Kelli Sawyer, Christian Anderson, Angela Ai, Carla Renata and Minglie Chen (plus a three-person ensemble) not only control their soft, pliable puppets while delivering lines in a variety of voices, but sing and dance as well. Their tour-de-force performances (directed by Jason Moore and choreographed by Ken Roberson) are a thing of beauty. It helps that some of the cast have been with the show since its New York and Vegas premieres.

Although AVENUE Q's book (by Jeff Whitty) is paper-thin and sometimes a little too fuzzy-wuzzy cute, its theme of the importance of camaraderie and community carries the day. The show gets a big boost from Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx's music & lyrics, which are sprightly and captivating throughout. Together these gifted artists help make AVENUE Q the rib-tickling success it is.

Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N. Grand Ave. Call 213-628-2772 or visit centertheatregroup.org