By Bob Evans
Musical Theater Kansas City Pro mounted the adult puppet musical, “Avenue Q” for a limited run on Union Station’s City Stage and taught life’s lessons in a humor-filled musical that exposed what is many times unsaid and brushed aside.
One of the opening numbers, “What Do You Do with a B. A. In English?/It Sucks to be Me” lampoons everyone’s worst fear that he or she has a bigger bag of burdens than others. In this case a recent college grad thinks a successful life awaits him until he discovers he cannot live on Easy Street and that affordable housing only resides in the area where other struggling individuals also reside. They know all to well the idea that “It Sucks to be Me” focuses. Audiences meet Princeton, the recent grad and his Avenue Q neighbors, Christmas Eve, Gary Coleman, Kate Monster, Brian, Nicky, Rod, and Trekkie, among others. All believe their lives hold little chance for their successes.
Another valuable lesson takes a blunt and honest look at racism in the song, “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist.” And, “Avenue Q” even explains the origin and meaning of the Internet–“The Internet Is for Porn.” And, of course, in both songs, universal truths burs forth from the puppeteers and elicit loud laughs from the audience as they face the hidden reality that the songs are cemented in truth.
“Avenue Q” uses humor, lively music, and simple, honest lyrics to illustrate societies advancements and lack of advancement. Much honesty comes through pointed humor, and “Avenue Q” exploits that.
Not a show for youngsters, “Avenue Q” utilizes foul-mouthed Muppet-like characters to bring society’s hidden agendas to the surface and expose them. But, it doesn’t stop there, full-frontal puppet sex creates a visual display of what some of the porn surfing has created. And, it’s all done with a laugh–and there are plenty to be had in “Avenue Q.”
“Avenue Q” is from the book by Jeff Whitty with music and lyrics by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx. MTKC Pro brought the delightful, adult musical to Kansas City audiences for a very limited run and featured a cast of some of their graduated talent and filled with other local talent to create a strong musical piece for KC audiences.
Even though the show falls heavily on ensemble teamwork to succeed, standout performances come from Ryan Hruza, Kayli Jamison and Mitchell Ward. Ward especially stands out for his work as Trekkie. His facial expressions and his funny body language brought the focus on his every move. Overall, the cast made the evening full of joy and laughter. “Avenue Q” forces people to see themselves in the characters and songs and laugh without being embarrassed or intimidated. The show contains universal honesty in simplified fun for adult audiences.
MTKC Pro created a dynamic ensemble cast where each actor brought great characterization to each of the puppet performers for the show. Once the lights dim and the show begins, no faults or seams appear. The cast creates beautiful chemistry among themselves and just takes the audience for a two-hour ride from overture to final bow. The cast is: Ryan Hruza as Princeton, Drew Szczeny as Brian, Kayli Jamison a Kate Monster, Mitchell Ward as Nicky/Trekkie Monster, AiVy Bui as Christmas Eve, Brea Clemons as Gary Coleman, Dashawn Young as Rod/Bad Idea Bear, Callie Rodina a Lucy/Mrs. T./Ba Idea Bear.
The band and creative team are: Julie Danielson, bass/musical director; Brant Challacombe, Angie Benson, Laurie Schwab, keyboards; Debbie Aller, flute, clarinet, alto sax; Chris Clements, guitar, banjo; Zeke Bockleman, percussion; Julie Danielson, director; Brad Shaw, puppet design and construction; Kylor Greene, Xanda Pilley, lighting design; Jae Shanks, sound design; Nick Monaldo, production assistant; Robert Lopez, original animation design.
Tags: MTCK Pro, “Avenue Q”, Kansas City Performing Arts, Kansas City Theater, Kansas City Musical Theatre