Avenue Q is a stunner at Croswell Opera House (and thats a good thing) — Review

There are those of us who have already been initiated into the cult of Avenue Q on Broadway (where it is still running, Off Broadway); or on tour; or one of the sit-down productions across the country…and Croswell Opera House should be extremely proud of their current production onstage in Adrian as it ranks right alongside those professional productions of the show. This is a slick, great-looking, and very funny adult musical.

Directed by Eric Parker (who also plays human character Brian), the show races along the many Sesame-Street-For-Adults-Only type scenes exploring challenges facing humans and monsters alike: work, roommates, relationships, sex, homelessness, and finding your “purpose” (with a side-visit to the world of internet porn which ranks among one of the funniest songs ever written for a stage musical).

Matthew Bowland (Princeton/Rod) and Kelly Fandrey (Kate Monster/Lucy) are excellent in difficult roles that keep them onstage virtually the entire time. Erik Wright-Olsen turns in a terrific performance as both Trekkie Monster and roommate Nicky. Natalie Kissinger is a hilarious Christmas Eve (in a role into which she stepped only a few weeks ago — kudos!) and Jamie Lynn Buechele, Joshua Mohler, Jesse Montie and Rebecca Craig are great in their many supporting parts (and limbs!) throughout the production. Melissa Paschall takes on the role of Gary Coleman.

The set design by Janine Woods-Thoma recreates the intimacy of the Broadway production. Jonathan Sills musical direction and orchestra are super. Sets, lights, costumes,sound and projections all work well here (including my favorite moment in the show — I won’t give it away, but it involves nightstands).

There is very little to distinguish that this is not a touring company, the production is that good (although there are a few mis-steps here and there that remind you that not all of the performers on stage are professionals). My sole gripe — the overuse of blackouts that stop the proceedings in a few places, rather than allowing the natural flow of scene to scene. Since most scene changes involve little more than the opening or closing of a flap or door on the set, it would have been more entertaining to allow the audience to watch that happen, especially the times that it was clear that the stage had been reset and the actor was waiting in darkness onstage for their light to come up. A minor quibble in a spectacular production.

And of course, the disclaimer needs to be made….NO YOUNG ONES AT THIS SHOW PLEASE!…which presents a challenge in itself. Audience members unfamiliar with this Tony-Award-Winning-Best-Musical (it surprisingly won over Wicked!) see the puppets in the advertisements and think it is for kids….then you see the disclaimers that it is NOT for kids, and it makes for a difficult sell.  Well let me shout it from the internet to your house: GO SEE THIS SHOW. Leave the kids at home, but by no means should you miss this production at Croswell Opera House. It is stunningly good.

Tickets can be ordered online at Croswell.org, by phone at 517-264-7469, or at the Box Office, 129 E. Maumee Street, Adrian, MI 49221.

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