By Noah Tebben
If you haven’t already heard of the Players’ much-anticipated production coming up this very weekend, let us clue you in. You all remember Sesame Street, yeah? Fuzzy little creatures of varying intelligence. Pet goldfish. All that jazz. Now imagine Big Bird moonlights as a hooker and Elmo has to pay rent by doing temp work and Gary Coleman is the landlord and you’ll have a half-decent idea of Avenue Q, the musical that has the most reservations in recent memory for the Players. The show itself has been lauded many times over for bringing puppetry and musicals into an adultified mix of wonder, but we’re here to talk about our pals and gals in the Playhouse.
I must admit I was a skeptic going into this one. I’d never seen a Playhouse musical, and while our Acapella and choir groups ring the halls and then some, I hadn’t seen much other vocal talent on display at RPI. I can now put that to rest and say that the leads in Avenue Q were well-picked and the plentiful score throughout the musical is in key and jammin’. The show features both live puppetry (a surprise to both myself and many of the show’s actors and actresses) and a live pit, both of whom are decked out in fur and costume, much to our delight. Bryce Miller’s role as Princeton and Pixie Sirois’ role as Kate Monster are stand-out performances and each manage to display their singing talent and their acting proficiency throughout the (approximate) 108-minute run time. These leads are well-supported by the raw energy of Jessica Spencer as Gary Coleman, the cartoony punctuality of Bill Geltzeiler’s Rod, and the tantalizing performance of Chiara Mancinelli as Lucy the Slut. Additional credit goes to Pranav Suppal’s tremendous efforts in getting Trekkie Monster (roided-out Cookie Monster) to handle his own vocal solos and Chris Guyon’s much-appreciated efforts in directing the chaos and keeping it all in sync and bringing his puppy along to keep the stress down. Of course, the entire cast and crew deserves much love and you should absolutely give shout-outs to your favorite performers if and when you see it for your jolly self.
To get into the gritty details, the set is possibly the most ambitious project I’ve seen thus far. We now have a little slice of Brooklyn-esque architecture living in the Playhouse and it looks great, houses at least eight, and accents the entirety of Avenue Q in a massively positive way. The upper ‘apartments’ allow the many characters to rip on each other and interject, introducing a big element of comedic surprise throughout the show. The puppetry work is well-done, aside from some minor instances where the actors had trouble coordinating precise puppet movements while singing and dancing and recalling lines in tandem, but this never amounted to more than maybe one or two missed mouth movements throughout a given scene. Otherwise, their gestures and nuances draw your eyes to their interactions with each other and distribute your attention nicely between human and felt.
Actor blocking throughout the play is excellent, the effects are smooth and highlight the progression of the play very nicely, and aside from some mic balancing issues and a weird moment where Lucy the Slut was accidentally shot, the sound and tech is executed nicely and it is very satisfying to see the Players continually improving their efforts and taking on more at once during their productions. (It is valid to note that these anomalies were noticed during the straits of Tech Week, and are very likely to be absent during the big debut this weekend.)
All in all, Avenue Q is easily my favorite Players’ production thus far, partially for my love of the play itself, but mostly for the way Nicky (Matt Fields) made me laugh as he got in my face and asked me for money, for the way Rod sang us the tales of his Canadian girlfriend, for the way that Gary Coleman encouraged us to have sex and be loud and we were treated to a puppetry threesome at grand old RPI. As a graduating senior, I’m sure I’ll be looking back at this show and wishing I could go back to college, and I have to highly recommend seeing Avenue Q this weekend for an 8pm evening show or for the 2pm Sunday matinee. Be sure to get reservations in ASAP, as many shows are already packed and it will be worth the fight. Shows will be running through this weekend and next. Find your purpose, and go give the Players your money.
For specific showtimes and to reserve RIGHT NOW, we’ve provided the Avenue Q show page right here.