Chagrin Valley Little Theatre
Through August 19th.
This laugh-out-loud musical tells the timeless story of a recent college grad named Princeton, who moves into a shabby New York apartment all the way out on Avenue Q. He soon discovers that, although the residents seem nice, it’s clear that this is not your ordinary neighborhood. Together, Princeton and his new-found friends struggle to find jobs, dates and their ever-elusive purpose in life.
Filled with gut-busting humor and a delightfully catchy score, not to mention puppets, Avenue Q is a truly unique show that has quickly become a favorite for audiences everywhere. Although the show addresses humorous adult issues, it is similar to a beloved children’s show; a place where puppets are friends, Monsters are good, and life lessons are learned.
Sounds like a blast doesn’t it? Well it is. However, the puppets in this show make “Girls gone Wild” look like a Lassie movie. That is why it is very understandable that the show comes with a disclosure:
My first impressions entering the Chagrin Valley Little Theatre is one of awe. The remodeling that has taken place there has turned this charming theatre into a revamped modern facility. Add in the fantastic volunteer base, and this theatre hits a home run. Also, running into Stage Manager Jeannie Clarkson was a delight. Sitting in my seat I am immediately tickled to see the set. Avenue Q never looked better. Looking like Sesame Street, it was interesting to think if the audience knew what was about to happen to them.
Tim Schuerger ( Princeton) starts off with some strong vocals and charming presence with What Do You Do With a B.A. in English? Natalie Kreft ( Kate Monster) has an immediate likable stage presence from her first entrance, deftly handling one of the major story lines that will unfold, with beautiful vocals and an enjoyable character. The entire ensemble rendition of Sucks To Be Me starts the evening off with kicking some major vocal and comedic butt. Every character is unique and a heck of a lot of fun. The puppets are great, and clearly worth the rental fee. This is a fabulous opening number. And Gary Coleman (Dayshawnda ‘Day’ Ash) is the pleasant surprise. So right off we have great characterizations, but when Christmas Eve (Evie Koh) takes over, this party hits the street with burning comedic rubber. Koh kicks ass this entire show. Her husband to be Brian (Patrick Hanlon) is a scream, playing his King of the Hill, Al Bundy realness to the hilt. Rod (Rob Walter) is a hoot as the alternative lifestyle puppet. Great face and great puppet maneuvers, and certainly anchors the show. Truly a blended puppet human delivery.
The Bad Idea Bears are scene stealers in the best way possible. Zachary Vederman and Sara Saltzer are brilliant as the bears that will lead you right off the edge in life, and/or off the edge of your chair in laughter. Other premiere performances are Tony Heffner as Nicky. One of the most well-rounded performers and characters in the show. Great puppet voice, great vocals, and great facial/puppet work. Just fantastic. Lets add in one of my favorite performances with Michael J. Rogan absolutely killing it playing Trekkie. Rogan completely destroys this role with brilliant comedic timing, and a voice that would rival Pennywise the clown. Awesome hilarious work. And then there is Braelin Andrzejewski as Mrs. Thistletwat, and then the delicious slut Lucy. Where the hell has this voice been my whole life. As Thistlewat, she delivers a very funny characterization. But when she enters as Lucy, the turkey thermostat just popped out to tell us we are done. Fabulous sultry, fun Lucyness, and then a sultry powerful vocal to top it all off. Don’t get me started with her rapid head dip. I just can’t.
Very special Kudos to Nicky’s right arm Jackie Manno, and Trekkie’s right arm Ronnie Thompson. Great work from both of them for completing their characters with astute precision, and rocking the ensemble numbers.
There were some issues that I noticed. I felt like a decision should be made to just light the puppet or both the puppet and the human face. Many times the spotlight cut half of the human face off and I found that distracting. There were several times where puppets were upstaging themselves. This happened with Kate Monster quite a bit, and one scene with the Blue Bad Idea bear. Whether these scenes or moments were blocked that way, or just fell into place, more attention needs to be spent making sure the puppets are opened up to the audience. The balance of the orchestra and performers tended to be off quite a bit during big numbers, sometimes so loud you couldn’t hear the performers. And then also when there were quieter moments to start off a number, you could hardly hear the intro. I am a stickler when it comes to a button on the end of the number. There were quite a few times where the posing at the end of the number, and the music weren’t in sync. To be honest, this bugs me. It leaves the audience, and the cast, with an odd sense of “Is this over?”. As a result, some of the transitions suffered.
A major attaboy to the Band led by Carey Knox. They kicked it. Special shout out to percussionist Marcus Greene, who nailed every comedic percussion moment in the show. If you ever needed a rim shot guy for your comedy act, this would be the man.
Director and Co-Lighting Designer Will C. Crosby has put together a great cast and a great night of entertainment. Choreographer Kaylea Kudlaty supplies everyone with just the right amount of movement to make the evening jive. However, if I see one more box step and a grapevine in community theatre, I might have to be medicated. Kudlaty also did double duty costuming the show to perfection. Edmond Wolff did a great job with his Set, Sound, Lighting and Video Design. Jeannie Clarkson handled Stage Management with efficient flare.
CSA – Kevin
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Chagrin Valley Little Theatre
40 River Street
Chagrin Falls, OH 44022