The puppets have found their people. Theatre Too's local debut of the musical Avenue Q is such a hit, the run has been extended an additional six weeks. Since it opened earlier this month, every performance of the show has been sold out. Looks like audiences love laughing along with a pack of dirty-talking "fur Americans."
Director Michael Serrecchia has done wonders squeezing the big Broadway Tony winner into the tiny 80-seat theater below Theatre Three. Somehow it works, however, with the actors and their end-of-arm characters popping up and out of the scenery, which depicts a rundown block of brownstone apartments.
Like an episode of Sesame Street (an R-rated one) written by kids who got detention for cussing, Avenue Q teaches lessons to its characters and us about what it means to seek and find your purpose in life. Lead character Princeton (played by cute newcomer Matt Purvis) has just graduated from college and has no idea what to do with his degree in English. He finds his soulmate in the fuzzy-faced Kate Monster (Megan Kelly Bates), an idealistic young teacher. But Princeton also has a dalliance with neighborhood stripper Lucy (Bates again). Uh oh, puppet sex!
The show's book writer, Jeff Whitty, and composer-lyricists Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx packed the score with bouncy, happy tunes that reveal devilishly dirty lyrics (like "The Internet Is for Porn") and that say things most musicals don't (like "Everyone's a Little Bit Racist" and "If You Were Gay"). Getting Dallas diva M. Denise Lee to play building superintendent Gary Coleman (yes, that one) allows her to sing the show's delightful ode to nastiness, "Schadenfreude."
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It's all a blast and the rest of the cast members -- Chester Maple, Olivia de Guzman Emile, Michael Robinson and James Chandler (doing a perfect Muppet Ernie voice) -- work comedy magic with the 36 different puppets used in the show.
Who knew Avenue Q would find a highway to success in a theater so far below street level?
Avenue Q continues through September 16 at Theatre Too, below Theatre Three in The Quadrangle, 2800 Routh St. Call 214-871-3300.