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Top Notch “Avenue Q” by Stagecrafters, Royal Oak (review) February 6, 2016

Posted by ronannarbor in Community Theater, musical theater, Musicals.
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You know, just when you think you’ve seen the ultimate regional production of Avenue Q (and I’m talking about the Croswell Opera House two years ago) along comes a near perfect gem at Royal Oak’s Stagecrafters proving one wrong.

What a thrill when everything comes together just right for a show: gorgeous set work; perfect lighting: top-notch sound design; spot-on projection work; and a simply spectacular cast.

Leading the production is Kevin Kaminski, the perfect Princeton. Kaminski is quickly becoming one of the most sought-after young singer/actors in SE Michigan and this performance is a good example of why. Right on his heels, are great performances by Hilary Dudek as Kate Monster, and a stunning Nicky played by Jeff LaMothe whose physical and voice work is outstanding.

The humans on this Avenue Q are played by Tom Pagano as Brian, Lynette Yeager as Christmas Eve (where are you Asian American actresses? I have yet to see a single Asian American actress play this role — an Asian American — in any of the seven or eight productions I have now seen locally), and Michael Adams as Gary Coleman. Rounding out the cast are Christopher Smith as Rod (His “My Girlfriend who Lives in Canada” is sharp and diction-perfect), Matthew Dudek as Trekkie Monster (his antics in the nightclub are hilarious!), Sara Rydzewski as the perfect Lucy the Slut, Jenny Boyle as Mrs Thistletwat; and Brian Moultrup and Kellie Kafantaris as the hilarious Bad Idea Bears.

The entire production is energetically directed by Deborah Landis-Sigler. Musical Director Debbie Tedrick has done a great job with the vocals and diction, and her 7-piece orchestra sounds full and well-drilled. Sound design is wonderful. If you haven’t seen a production in the Baldwin Theater in Royal Oak, then you don’t know how difficult a task is to make sound, lighting, and video work in a space that was built in 1922. The tech work is terrific in this production.

Congratulations to Stagecrafters on a truly remarkable production.

Note that Avenue Q is not for younger humans. It isn’t even for some older humans. Take all the warnings on their posters at face value. For the rest of us, it is a hilarious show with a lot of heart, and this production is first rate.

Very Highly Recommended.

Stagecrafters’ Avenue Q continues at the Baldwin Theatre in Royal Oak through February 7th. All remaining performances are sold out.

Very strong cast in Dexter’s Hilarious “Avenue Q” (Review) January 16, 2016

Posted by ronannarbor in Community Theater, musical theater, Musicals, Uncategorized.
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There is a very strong cast in Dexter Community Player’s Avenue Q, now running at the Copeland Auditorium in Dexter, Michigan. Ok, I thought, I’ve now seen so many productions of this show, what could another add to the canon? Well, it is a strong, hilarious cast that makes this production soar.

Under the fast-paced direction of Jason Smith and the excellent musical directorship of Jonathan Sills, the production barrels along with it’s outrageous songs (and lyrics), and it’s foul-mouthed over-sexed puppets (this is absolutely NOT a show for kids, no matter how cute those puppets might be).

N. Leo Snow is superb as Princeton, and Jamie Lynn Buechele a knock-out as Kate Monster. Her “Fine Fine Line” is simply sublime as it ends Act I on a bittersweet note. There’s a big big heart beating inside Avenue Q (one of the reasons it won Best Musical over Wicked), and this cast finds that quickly and isn’t afraid to share it throughout. But the entire cast is terrific — witness Erik Olsen’s excellent Nicky, Jared Hoffert’s over-the-top Trekkie Monster, and Katrina Chizek’s Lucy the Slut.

Rounding out the great cast are: Chris Bryant as Brian, Stacey Smith as his wife Christmas Eve and Keshia Daisy Oliver as Gary Coleman (like Sesame Street, they are the three non-puppet “people” that live in the neighborhood); Antonio Argiero as closeted Rod; Mary Rumman as school teacher Mrs Thistletwat; and the other characters (Bad Idea Bears, singing boxes, Ricky, etc): Amanda Burch, Neil Clennan, and Eric Redfern.

Sills’ 6-piece combo band sounds great. The set by David Chapman is Avenue Q pretty. The costumes by Kristi Kuick look sharp. And then there are those amazing puppets.

What didn’t click? Well, sound design is in a word awful. Mics drop in and out consistently (most noticeably on Erik Olsen). Cues are missed throughout so that actors starting speaking offstage are unheard, then come blaring on. There were multiple feedback problems on opening night. Tires squealed instead of a phone ringing. Ironically, the phone rang when a toilet flush is supposed to be heard. The actors cleverly covered those mistakes, but they mar an otherwise excellent production. Also missing on opening night were projections, which I am assured will be there for future shows. I’m hopeful they’ll iron out these problems as the run continues this week and next.

But don’t let that scare you off — this cast is great; and in that small intimate house you can hear (most) of it without the mics. Its a hilarious evening of entertainment that you should not miss.

Highly Recommended.

Avenue Q continues through January 24th at DCP — tickets at dextercommunityplayers.org

 

 

Avenue Q is a stunner at Croswell Opera House (and thats a good thing) — Review May 12, 2012

Posted by ronannarbor in Broadway Musicals, Entertainment, musical theater, Musicals.
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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.