Katie Nuss, Tymika Prince and Jordan Price in Avenue Q.
Photo – CenterStage.

Avenue Q

Music and Lyrics by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx

Book by Jeff Whitty

Based on an Original Concept by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx

Directed by John R. Leffert

Reviewed by Craig Nolan Highley

Entire contents are copyright © 2013, Craig Nolan Highley. All rights reserved.

Avenue Q is a show near and dear to my heart. I’ve seen it performed dozens of times, whether it was the original Broadway production, the touring version, or other productions by Louisville theater groups. And each time I see it I am reminded that even though the images that stay with you are puppets using profanity, appearing nude, and having sex on stage, the core of the show is its message about tolerance and transitioning into adulthood. As funny as it gets, there are moments of real poignancy and heart that tend to get lost in the spectacle.

CenterStage at the Jewish Community Center’s current production really seems to get it, and for the most part, they get it right. From John Leffert’s realistic (if not entirely functional) set design, to his direction, to Zachary Boone’s fun choreography, and to mostly strong performances by the cast, the show is pure entertainment from start to finish. 

Basically it’s the what-if story of what might have become of the beloved characters on Sesame Street once they’ve grown up. It’s a mix of actors performing with and without puppets in a series of vignettes teaching lessons you’d never learn from the Children’s Television Workshop, whether it’s using the internet to watch porn, staying in denial about your sexuality, or freaking out after a one-night stand.

Our main protagonist is a fresh-out-of-college puppet named Princeton (Jordan Price), moving into the apartment complex community of Avenue Q and searching for his purpose. The superintendent is none other than down-on-his-luck former child star Gary Coleman (Tymika Prince), who quickly introduces Princeton to the other tenants of the run-down complex: Ernie and Bert surrogates Nicky (Brian Morris) and Rod (Price again), roommates in denial of the sexual preferences of one of them; Kate Monster (Katie Nuss), a cute furry love-interest for Princeton; Brian (Jason Cooper) and Christmas Eve (Jennifer Poliskie), a wannabe comedian and his Japanese therapist wife; and Trekkie Monster (Morris again), a shut-in addicted to internet porn.

Other characters come and go, and the plot takes a lot of dramatic leaps with the emotional ups and downs young twenty-somethings must deal with (it owes as much to Rent as it does to the Muppets), and moves along at a brisk pace that never fails to entertain.

Much kudos go to Brian Morris, giving easily the best performance in the show as Nicky and Trekkie Monster. His vocal range for both characters really brings to mind not only the original Broadway performer of the characters, but the voice of Jim Henson as well. Tymika Prince also fares very well in emulating the late Gary Coleman, and has two of the best musical numbers in the show.

Jordan Price is convincingly sweet as Princeton, but he really excels as the closeted Republican banker puppet Rod. When he has a complete breakdown late in the show, you just can’t help but be moved by his character’s arc, puppet or not. Katie Nuss’s character voice as Kate Monster is a bit hard to take – it is way too high-pitched; she fares a lot better in her second character Lucy the Slut, Kate’s rival for Princeton’s affections. Her comic timing and vocals really work to sell that second character. And finally, Kristy Calman gets some nice moments with some of the secondary puppet characters; giving the nasty old busybody Mrs. Thistletwat a lilting brogue was a nice character choice.

I did notice a number of the show’s bigger moments had been cut from this production, which was odd since I’ve seen productions with much lower budgets produce the show without cutting a thing. But over all it was a great show and has a lot to recommend.

Honestly, I can’t imagine how you could do a bad production of such an iconic and hilarious show. This one is definitely worth a look!

Starring David Beach, Kristy Calman, Jason Cooper, Brian Morris, Katie Nuss, Jennifer Poliskie, Jordan Price, and Tymika Prince.

Avenue Q

April 11 –28, 2013

Center Stage at the

Jewish Community Center

3600 Dutchmans Lane

Louisville, Kentucky 40205

(502) 459-0660