Friday, June 28, 2013

Review: (Vancouver) Avenue Q

Rod (photo by Emily Cooper)
"A" For Amazing
by Jay Catterson

Avenue Q, the hit Broadway puppet musical (think Sesame Street for adults) that rightfully snatched the 2003 Tony for Best Musical away from Wicked, finally arrives on the Arts Club Granville Island Stage. And boy, has it arrived! Now if you're wondering what the 'Q' in Avenue Q stands for, I can tell you this: Quality. This locally produced production has the look, feel and sound of a top-notch off-Broadway show; a treatment that this gem of a show truly deserves. (It's truly fitting, since Avenue Q had its fortuitous birth off-Broadway, and successfully moved back off-Broadway after its Broadway run ended in 2009.)

Director/choreographer Peter Jorgensen really has to be commended here for steering a production of this calibre, delivering the show with all the humour and heart of Jeff Whitty's hilariously stellar book and Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx's delightfully spunky score intact. The band, led by musical director Sean Bayntun is tight, and the cast is outstanding, especially Andrew MacDonald-Smith who plays the wide-eyed Princeton and closeted Rod (Macdonald-Smith is no stranger to the role; he actually made his Broadway debut in Avenue Q at the Golden Theatre in 2006) and Kayla Dunbar who plays Kate Monster/Lucy. The set design by Marshall McMahen is effective and evocative of Sesame Street-meets-skid row (his set is by far the best set design I've seen at the Arts Club in the last five years; not bad for his Arts Club debut!), and really lends itself to bringing the puppets by original Broadway cast member/puppeteer Rick Lyon to life. 

If you regret missing this show on its recent national tour or haven't made the trip out to New York to see it, don't fret; catch this production before it disappears, for Arts Club Vancouver has delivered its best show in years. In true educational programming fashion, Avenue Q is brought to you by the letters "A" for amazing and "E" for excellent, and the number 4, for four star entertainment. 

Avenue Q is at The Arts Club to August 3 August 17

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