The Axelrod Performing Arts Center in Deal has an ambitious season planned for this year, starting with the Tony® award-winning musical Avenue Q. The show, last seen on Broadway in 2009, still retains much of its charm – after all, it has been described as “Sesame Street for adults” – but much of its satirical bite has dulled over time.
The show, written by Jeff Whitty with a score by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx, is set in an outer New York neighborhood on a somewhat rundown street. Princeton (Clint Hromsco), a recent college grad with a BA in English, arrives looking for an affordable apartment — he started at Avenue A and worked his way down.
He meets the residents of the streets: Brian (Beau Bradshaw), an unemployed comedian, and his Asian-American fiancée Christmas Eve (Amelia Fei), an underemployed social worker; Kate Monster (Miranda Wolf), a trainee elementary school teacher; Rod and Nicky (Mr. Hromsco and Adam Zeph), two longtime friends and roommates; Trekkie Monster (Mr. Zeph), who spends his days in front of the computer; and Gary Coleman — yes, this Gary Coleman – which is the super building (Nélesheé).
Together, the group navigates unemployment, homelessness, racism, homosexuality, depression, and other issues of modern city life. Some dreams come true, often in hilarious and unexpected ways.
The cast, directed and choreographed by Todd Underwood, is uniformly talented. Each of them has several chances to shine in acts and musical stages, and the puppeteers – Hromsco, Wolf and Chief Zeph among them – are multi-voiced delights. Hromsco, Wolf and Fei also deliver with their singing skills, while Nélesheé has a sassy stage presence as the unlucky Gary Coleman.
While Jeff Whitty’s book has aged (sometimes, not for the better), Lopez and Marx’s score is still good. To give you an idea of the versatility of the music, here are some of the song titles: “Schadenfreude”; “Everyone is a little racist”; “The Internet is for porn”; “There is a fine, fine line”; “The More You Ruv Somebody”; “It sucks to be me”; “My girlfriend who lives in Canada”; and the optimistic closing number “For now”. Conductor Michael Gilch directs an off-stage sextet that manages its musical tasks with agility.
I must admit that I saw Avenue Q when it was on Broadway, and although the performers here were energetic, they didn’t seem lively. It’s rare that I say this, but I blame the audience for this performance, which didn’t have the response a cast needs for more energy. However, I really enjoyed this performance.
If what you’re looking for is a lovely, joyful time at the theater, I recommend making the trip to Deal’s Axelrod Center for the Performing Arts and walking around Avenue Q!
Avenue Q runs at Axelrod Performing Arts Center’s Vogel Auditorium in Deal through November 20. For more information or to purchase tickets, call 732-531-9106 ext. 14 or visit axelrodartscenter.com.