This past Sunday brought the closing performance of the Valley premiere of the Tony-award winning Broadway musical, Avenue Q. The Fourth Wall Theatre company in Visalia, CA put it on, and lucky for me I was able to catch it just before it went away in its limited 6 show run. Having seen the national tour twice, and the Bay Area regional premiere of Avenue Q, this production did have a lot to live up to as I came into it. However, after taking a stroll down avenue Q with these raunchy puppets and hilarious humans, I was more than eager to give my round of applause for this brilliant staging of this wonderfully inappropriate hit!
Avenue Q is a Sesame Street spoof meets South Park as we follow a new college grad, Princeton, in his hopes to find his purpose and a place to stay. Superintendent Gary Coleman (yes, thee Gary Coleman) helps him with an apartment for rent on avenue Q. It is there Princeton meets several friends including Kate Monster, with whom he begins a relationship. With help from his newly found friends, and the Bad Idea Bears, Princeton grows up quickly, learning all sorts of life lessons. Chris Mangels’ creative staging gives a very enjoyable time with plenty of laughs to keep the audience entertained for the afternoon.
(Sarah Gallegos (Kate Monster) and Adam Rodriguez (Princeton); Photo Credit: Corey Ralston, Kings River Life)
Starting with our leading couple, we have Sarah Gallegos as a decent Kate Monster and Adam Rodriguez as a strong Princeton. The mark I use to see if a production of Avenue Q is a good one is if I am focused more on the puppets (when applicable) rather than the actor. I barely looked at Rodriguez, and his great character voice rings through in “Purpose” and “Everyone’s A Little Bit Racist.” Gallegos has a good presence with Kate, but her voice is a bit thin for the Act 1 ballad, “There’s A Fine, Fine Line.” However, Gallegos and Rodriguez along with a stand out Camille Gaston (Gary Coleman) perform “Everyone’s A Little Bit Racist” with great punch and comedy.
(Terry Lewis (Rod); Photo Credit: Corey Ralston, Kings River Life)
Continuing with Gaston, she is a brilliant Gary Coleman to watch. She belts out every note and humorous line in “You Can Be Loud As The Hell You Want When You’re Making Love.” This song is one of director Chris Mangels’ staging highlights. Peter Allwine (Nicky) is perfectly cast and nails the iconic voice of this Ernie-like character. Allwine and Gaston share a great bit together in the Act 2 song “Schadenfreude.” Terry Lewis plays a greatly nuanced Rod, with “My Girlfriend, Who Lives in Canada” and “Fantasies Come True” properly displaying Lewis’ ability to maintain a great character with ear-pleasing vocals.
(L to R: Sarah Gallegos (Kate Monster), Adam Rodriguez (Princeton), Danielle Jorn (Lucy The Slut); Photo Credit: Michael Alvarez, Visalia Times-Delta)
Rounding out the cast well is a memorable performance from Danielle Jorn as the lounge singer Lucy The Slut in “Special.” Ejay Malicsi (Christmas Eve) does a fine job in his solo with Kate, “The More You Ruv Someone,” and plays the abusive Asian wife well against a mediocre Brian (played by John Hampson). Sean McMichael is an impeccable Trekkie Monster. His big song with Kate, “The Internet is for Porn,” was a show stopper and highlights McMichael’s talents as a stage performer. The ensemble of Bad Idea Bears are wonderful in every inappropriate way possible. They are a very put-together, tight knit foursome of comic delight.
(Cast of Avenue Q; Photo Credit: Michael Alvarez, Visalia Delta-Times)
Richard Morril built a great tradiitonal set with the multiple buildings, and I espeically enjoyed the screen where the video montages (credit to a creative Dominic Grijalva) were located. It was nice having one central location to enjoy the videos rather than multiple screens like I have seen on the national tours. Chris Mangels’ puppet design were immacualte making the overall feel for the show go far beyond “community theatre.” His Trekkie Monster and Nicky puppets were awesome to look at, and I really appreciated all of the different puppet costumes Mangels incorporated. It truly shows how paying attention to detail can make all the difference so bravo to Mangels for hitting every detail. Although Avenue Q is now closed, don’t fret! Follow Fourth Wall on Facebook for news and information on upcoming productions. Visalia had a gem of a show in Avenue Q, and I can not wait to see what their next project is!