Saturday, November 10, 2012

Avenue Q

DOMA Theatre presents
Avenue Q
by Robert Lopez, Jeff Marx and Jeff Whitty
directed by Richard Israel


review by Phillip Kelly

Other than hearing a few hooks from some of the songs, this was my first experience with Avenue Q. I've never heard any of the music. In fact, I avoided it so I could hear it for the first time on stage. And I'm pleased to report that my first experience was a good one. Q is not as raunchy as Peter Jackson's Meet the Feebles, which is not a bad thing. The creators' inspiration was more Simpsons, South Park or Family Guy. It's irreverent in a silly way. I can't imagine this show offending anyone. Much of the story is told through Sesame Street like vignettes, but I'm not going to go into the story as you probably already know it, or should see it.

Like watching a movie with subtitles - it takes a few moments to adjust to keeping your eyes on the felt as opposed to the flesh and blood performers, who all do fantastic jobs, many times voicing two puppets from different areas of the room at once. Their character voices are spot on, and their singing voices are vibrant. Chris Kauffmann (voicing Princeton and Rod) and Danielle Judovits (Kate Monster, Lucy), are both extremely talented in these areas. Thank goodness, as they are the leads! Judovits does need to loosen her arm up a bit, get the puppet off her hip, to really bring it to life. At times, it feels like she forgets it's there and has the tendency to upstage her felt personas (This is me being nit picky, as she's an excellent performer). Mark Whitman is extraordinary, taking on several of the more secondary characters to great effect. The nonpuppet carriers Chris Kerrigan and Janelle Dote do a stand up job playfully giving fresh interpretations to all the human friends on Sesame Street. Benai Boyd as Gary Coleman, captures the spirit of the little man we all loved to tease out of love. But the one who really deserves some attention here is Libby Letlow, who voices Mrs. T and one of the hilarious Bad Decision Bears, when she's not voicing those roles she's physically bringing the puppets alive when they aren't on the appropriate voice actors arms. A performance like this is the backbone of any show. She's not a lead, and yet she's full of life, commitment and works the hell out of those puppets! To cast someone any less talented than Libby, would have brought the entire production down a few notches. But nope, everyone here is equally talented and they bring a joy to the production that's infectious.

The show's heart didn't surprise me. This level of satire and spoof comes with intelligence and typically that means the production will have some heart for people to connect with. Here, it was effective.

I've now seen a handful of productions at DOMA and this is probably the best I've seen, and a great way for anyone to introduce themselves to this ambitious company. You could say it's hard to screw up such a good piece of material, but let me tell you - it's easy to, look at how much poor Shakespeare is done. Israel has brought together an incredibly talented group of people, including Chris Raymond, the musical director, Angela Todaro, the choreographer, and all of the designers. This is a top notch show. 

Nicely done.

Avenue Q 
Directed by Richard Israel
Presented By DOMA Theatre @ The Met Theatre
1089 N. Oxford Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90029
November 9th-December 16th Fridays-Sundays
For tickets and times: www.domatheatre.com or 323-802-4990

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