Thursday, 4 May 2017

Avenue Q, Supa Productions, The Q.

This is a first para about my personal history with the show. So if you're looking to see if you should go watch this (spoiler: YES YOU SHOULD) or you're involved in the show and want to see if I've mentioned you by name (spoiler: PROBABLY IF YOU WERE ON STAGE OR INVOLVED IN DIRECTING. DESIGNING LIGHTING CHOREOGRAPHY MUSICAL DIRECTING OR SOUND, PROBABLY NOT OTHERWISE), skip onwards. Okay, for the rest of you - this is, weirdly enough, the fourth time I've seen this show. It's the first show I ever saw on Broadway (one of my facebook profiles is of me with the Bad Idea Bears - photo entirely does not capture me having original cast member Jennifer Barnhardt behind me working both bears), and it's probably the only show where I haven't at least been front-of-housing where I've ended up seeing it three times in a year (I saw the Australian professional tour twice, once in Melbourne and once in Canberra despite having slight issues with a few production decisions and performances, particularly in handling of puppets, largely due to Canberra being discounted and wanting to support top-level professional tours of shows that I like - I like amateur theatre a lot but I also like people being paid for their efforts cause you can't feed yourself on applause).

Anyway, point being, yes I know this show and like it lots. It's a refreshingly young-feeling show (the writing team were all making their debut, with Bobby Lopez starting his EGOT-claiming ways with his 2004 Tony for the score), taking the "Sesame Street for College Graduates" with both humour and a fair bit of sincerity - it's not just a puppet-filled gagfest, it's also about feeling lost in a big terrifying world (whether that world be New York City or anywhere else) of financial pressures, entangling relationships, and of course, casual racism.

And this production gets a young lively cast to go with it - some of them thirty-something theatre veterans, some making spectacular debuts. My very specific objection to the Australian professional run is that there is one golden commandment for this show - Thou Shalt Not Pull Focus From Thy Puppet (and there were a few too many cases where that took place in that production) - but this cast, despite being full of talents who in other circumstances absolutely should have focus, knows that we're here to see the puppets and gives them free rain. Nick Valois nails the gentle befuzzlement of Princeton, and Emma McCormack's Kate Monster gives us a rich range between sensitivity and rage. Dave Smith relishes the chance to have silly voices both as the gormlessly silly Nicky and as a distinctly deep-south Bad Idea Bear, and Joel Hutchings is distinctly stick-up-the-butt as the not-particularly-hiding-it-very-well-closeted-Republican Rod. Robert Stankov makes an utterly adorable debut as a gleeful Trekkie Monster, Josie Dunham brings every element of puppet-sex-appeal to Lucy T. Slut, Kate O'Sullivan brings wild energy to the other Bad Idea Bear, and Jo Burns is the best kind of Crabby Old Bitch as Mrs Thistletwat. As the token humans, Nina Wood is a delightfully dogmatic Christmas Eve, Riley Bell a loose and playful Brian (and in things I never knew I wanted to see on stage, Riley Bell Does Jazz Hands is now one of them), and Joanna Licuanan Francis has funk and attitude as Gary Coleman.

Jarrad West runs a tight production, keeping the show fresh and focussed. Elizabeth Alford's band is one of the strongest I've heard lately - there's not a bum note from the 6-member pit. Pierce Jackson's choreography has a delightful playful quality to it - there's nothing that looks particularly complex, but it's exactly the kind of thing the show needs - giving the cast movement that reflects the character of the show. Nick Valois and Chris Zuber's set is a nicely solid bit of building, looking lived in, run down, but also loose enough to let people get on-and-off relatively quickly.

Lighting is a little bit imprecise (there's a few too many moments when characters are not lit as they're supposed to be - particularly in the opening of the "Fantasies Come True" sequence). Sound is mostly pretty solid except for one misbehaving microphone at one point.

In short - yeah, this is a great production of a favourite show full of great local talent. So, yeah, you should book a ticket for this one.

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