Avenue Q, Shakespeare Theatre

"Wait, what?"

That was pretty much my reaction to hearing that Avenue Q would be coming to the Shakespeare Theatre on its latest pass through Washington, DC. Its first stay over had been at the National Theatre, a roadhouse theatre that's a much more typical home for a tour of Avenue Q's ilk.

Of course, one of the things my press packet brought to mind is that Q really is a bit of an oddball. The show was originally housed at the Vineyard Theatre off-Broadway (which would later also take on the equally quirky and fun [title of show], recently mounted by Signature here in DC) in a house size that's much closer to the STC's Lansburgh than the (comparatively) whopping National. So that's definitely a plus for the Q tour- although I've seen the show succeed in bigger spaces with panache (I've seen the show in the West End and in that stopover at the National), there's a stronger feelings of intimacy and jokes shared between friends in a smaller space. It's also, in many ways, a smart move for the Shakespeare Theatre- it was a full house last night that definitely skewed towards the coveted under-40 crowd.

So how was it? Again, that's a funny question. It's quite odd to walk into the Lansburgh and see what, in many, MANY ways, is exactly the show I saw several years back in a different location. That's just how these national tours work- it's the same staging of the same director's vision of the same show with only the actors changed. Brent Michael DiRoma and Jacqueline Grabois were well matched as Princeton and Kate Monster, and Sunday's performance featured two understudies: Zach Trimmer and Juliana Lee as Ricky/Trekkie and Christmas Eve. It was a strong ensemble, with a particularly strong performance from Charles M Baskerville as Gary Coleman (yes, that Gary Coleman) although at times the cast seemed to be mic'd a little too low from my position in the middle of the house.

In the end, Avenue Q is still Avenue Q. It's a fun, clever, honest, naughty, heartfelt, and slightly bittersweet show with a fun score and strong performances. Was it all that different from the other two times I've seen it? Nope. But if you HAVEN'T seen it yet, you bally well should, because it's a show well worth seeing. I know every word of the score and half the book as well and had a lovely evening; I sat next to someone who'd never seen the show or heard the score before and she seemed as delighted with the proceedings as I was.

For all that the show seems an odd match for the Shakespeare Theatre, it's a swell match for DC, a town brimming with people of the Sesame Street generation, out of college and looking for something to be passionate about. If the show hits a little too close to home at time, that's a good thing, and hey- where else will you hear an audience react audibly to the vagaries of puppet romance? Get thee to the Shakespeare Theatre, folks- it's Avenue Q, for heaven's sake. See it.


Popular Posts