Friday, June 8, 2012

Raunchy, Rude and Rocking: Lyric Stage Company Presents "Avenue Q"

In 2004, Broadway brought forth a new comedy musical that was a familiar take on reality that explored the post-college adventures and lives of several unique individuals.  However, these individuals were mostly made up of the furry and fluffy sort.  This show of course, was "Avenue Q". Viewed as an almost  R-rated "Sesame Street" this hilarious musical garnered several Tonys for not only its raunchy humor, fun characters and plot, but the more rambunctious songs peppered throughout, including "Everyone's A Little Bit Racist" and "It Sucks To Be Me". The Lyric Stage in Boston is currently running their production of "Avenue Q".

"Avenue Q" tells the story of young college graduate Princeton, fresh-faced and out to find his purpose in life. After moving to New York, he ends up finding a nice little neighborhood, a bit of the run-down side, but full of heart called Avenue Q.  There he meets all sorts of interesting characters, puppet and human alike, and their own stories intertwine with his as they deal with their own issues.  We see the reality that their adult lives were not all full of promise and hope they dreamed of when they were kids. Also, Gary Coleman happened to be the Superintendent, which of course, adds to the levels of hilarity.

The music composed Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx is without a doubt, clever, witty and above all, extremely funny.  With tones of sing songy children's tunes, the content is far from something for a child.  Most of the score is made up of ridiculous and funny songs, but within it, there are few sweet ones, that really give the show true heart.  However, there were a few in there, including "I Wish I Could Go Back to College" that in content, quietly lamented about the things we all miss about about college, good and bad, that had no real set up. It has no place in the story, but it doesn't mean it wasn't a great song.  It felt all across the board that the songs were written first, with a somewhat relatable story built around it.  Despite the shortcomings of book and song, everything was extremely solid.

The cast was a truly a talented bunch.  Each gave wonderful performances that shined in each of their individual moments and scenes. From the relationships they created, touching to tumultuous, they all shared a strong chemistry. The scene-stealer of the night had to be Phil Tayler, as he portrayed the loud and net surfing Trekkie Monster, fun-loving and well-meaning Nicky and one half the cute yet manipulative Bad Idea Bears.   With his songs and his puppets, they were in sync with plenty servings of hilarity. His moments did not upstage anyone else in the cast, of course,  as everyone in the whole cast not only were expert in their usage of puppets, but all played well off each other.  They were again, a very funny and enjoyable ensemble.

Spiro Veloudos' direction was solid, especially in the space for the Lyric. The stage was center between three audience seating areas, therefore this particular stadium setting had to be used carefully. Veloudos had everyone play to the audience as much as possible on all sides, though not nearly enough to house right. It was distracting, especially between moments where listening to the lyrics helped feed a particular funny song.  The space worked against it, but it was a strong attempt to use every bit of it, especially because of the design.  Kathryn Kawecki's set design  perfectly captured a down-trodden neighborhood and managed to cram it all in the space.  It was full of heart and character and reflected the uniqueness of the residents.  Frank Meissner's lighting was not a super complex design, as nothing over the top would be suited for this particular show. He did give us a great use of a disco ball that when the light hit it just right, it created wonderful moods and moments. 

There is not denying that bringing such a great such to Boston was a perfect move by the Lyric.  The show reflected a lot of what of people knew and felt as they either came right out of school, or found themselves at a difficult point.  Masked in catchy numbers and fun moments, this production "Avenue Q" was of full of heaps of heart and hilarity, and reminding that even though things sometimes don't turn out the way we want, life goes on and its okay to laugh about certain things once in a while.  The Lyric Stage Company presented a great show with a talented cast, human and puppet alike, showing us that in life, good and bad, everything is only "For Now".

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