Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

September 18, 2017

Avenue Q.

Playhouse on Park, West Hartford, CT
through October 8, 2017
by Jarice Hanson

For its opening play of the 9th season, Playhouse on Park has mounted the extremely ambitious “Avenue Q.” Requiring strong actors, singers, puppeteers, a live band, and a complicated sound system, this play demands extraordinary ensemble work that either makes it or breaks it. With this production, the Playhouse has made it, big time!

Photo by Curt Henderson
Much of the production’s success should be credited to Kyle Brand, the director/choreographer who brilliantly moved his actors over the thrust-style stage with some disappearing out one exit only to be seemingly transported backstage for some of the most magical transitions I’ve ever seen. The show adds a level of difficulty with some actors voicing different puppet characters while standing on a different part of the stage—and handing off puppets seamlessly to other actors in mid-sentence. I watched carefully, and sometimes missed the hand-offs because they were so smooth.

The casting is perfection and the five-piece band (unseen, but integral to the show), directed by Robert James Tomasulo is spot-on with keeping the pacing of the show fast, and sometimes furious. Unfortunately, there were a few problems with the body mics the night I saw the show, but they are forgivable in a space this size and with a talented group of performers who don’t let anything get in their way.

When I saw “Avenue Q” on Broadway the year it opened in 2003, I wondered whether the themes of the show and the values it espoused would have a long life on stage. The play still works, and its music and lyrics still capture the “coming of age” story. The Muppet-like puppets are highly relatable, but a few older audience members were shocked and offended by the language, which definitely seems a bit more “blue” when attributed to puppets. “Avenue Q” is a delight on stage, and the clever cast and crew at Playhouse on Park can be very proud of this energetic, first-rate production.