By MIKE DUNHAM
You don’t expect soul-wringing drama in a puppet show, and “Avenue Q” doesn’t offer any. But the touring production of the Tony-winning musical, which opened Friday night in Atwood Concert Hall, serves up a lot of silliness, amusing song-and-dance and two hours of polished, feel-good entertainment.
The energetic cast keeps the pacing tight, sings well and, in the case of the performers who have to integrate themselves with their large puppet characters, do a fine job of selling their parts.
Of the seven performers who took a bow on opening night, four had the responsibility of handling at least 10 Muppet-style figures and working up several different voices. Though the handlers were plainly visible, singing or speaking while the puppet’s mouth moved, trading places or taking on additional roles as needed, they succeeded in making the legless cloth and foam rubber characters the real stars.
The plot is elementary. Boy meets monster. Monster loves boy. They fall apart and get back together. Happy ending. The boy, Princeton (David Colston Corris), is trying to find his purpose in life. The monster, Kate, (Ashley Eileen Bucknam) wants to start a school for “persons of fur” and break down stereotypes of monsters as lazy.
Their cluster of ramshackle brownstone apartments is overseen by child actor Gary Coleman (Anita Welch — I told you this was silly). Their neighbors include Christmas Eve (Lisa Helmi Johanson), a feisty Japanese therapist and her wannabe comedian boyfriend, Brian (Tim Kornblum), the odd-couple best friends Nicky (Michael Liscio, Jr.) and Rod (Corris) and the wealthy pervert Trekkie Monster (Liscio).
There’s also the adult entertainer Lucy the Slut, sung with lusty Mae West-iness by Bucknam and alternately handled by Kerri Brackin, mostly in speaking roles. And two demonic stuffed bears (Liscio and Brackin) who cheerfully dispense wicked advice.
There’s a “Sesame Street” feel to the set and puppets. Trekkie looks and sounds like Cookie Monster. Sloppy but good hearted Nicky and uptight Rod, a banker wrestling with sexuality, are Ernie and Bert presented in Q-vision.
But the adult language and situations are not necessarily suitable for young children. (On Friday I saw no children, suggesting good sense on the part of the patrons.) A few lyrics, set to bouncy music, that we can print here will give some idea:
“Everyone’s a little bit racist.”
“The more you love someone, the more you want to kill them.”
“The internet is for porn.”
If the words are mildly smutty (and nothing in “Avenue Q” approaches the potty-mouthiness of “South Park”), the rhymes and punch lines are witty. I could make out most of the dialogue from my seat near the stage; people at the back of the ground floor also reported decent sound and good visibility.
Leaving the show, several people were heard talking about the shallowness of thing. “There really wasn’t a moral message in it,” said one woman. “But I couldn’t stop laughing.”
Nor, from the sound of things, could most of the audience.
AVENUE Q will be presented by the Anchorage Concert Association at 8 p.m. on Saturday, at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 23, 25, 26 and 27, and at 2 p.m. Jan. 22 and 23 in Atwood Concert Hall. Tickets are $40-$75 at centertix.net.
Find Mike Dunham online at adn.com/contact/mdunham or call 257-4332.