Review: Avenue Q (Lower Ossington Theatre)

seanna-kennedy-photography-lot-2016-ave-q-promo-2The LOT performs tony-award winning musical Avenue Q in Toronto

Being about seven months out of university myself, I wasn’t sure whether I was ready to go see the Lower Ossington Theatre’s production of Avenue Q this weekend. It’s a poignant satire of children’s television programming that pokes fun at the struggles of adult life after graduation. The catchy tunes like “What Do You Do with a B.A. in English?” and “I Wish I Could Go Back to College” were written by Jeff Marx and Robert Lopez (co-creator of Book of Mormon and composer for Frozen), and they certainly rang true to me. You know you’re watching biting satire when a part of you dies each time you laugh.

But don’t let this cynical twenty-something discourage you: the LOT’s production of Avenue Q is a very fun show. 

A friend once described Avenue Q to me as “coming in a box,” and I like the script enough that I didn’t want to believe that until this viewing. This is a show with a very rigid, albeit vibrant and fun, script. Two productions will be invariably similar. This is often the case with musicals, but this one especially.

The set will always be like something out of Sesame Street, the puppets are necessarily Jim Henson-esque, and the actors will be clad in black doing the same muppet voices in every production. This makes Avenue Q easier and harder to review in different ways. I can’t speak to the production’s “creative vision,” but I can say that as long as the show has decent acting and production value, it will be very enjoyable to the audience.

The LOT’s production checks off these boxes, so I can promise that as long as the show’s racier humour is up your alley (think Book of Mormon), you’ll enjoy it.

Overall, I was happy with the performances in this show. The standout star to my guest and I was Liana Bdewi as Katie and Lucy. Her voicework was impeccable, and the two puppets she voiced were clearly different from one another in speaking and in song.

Chris Vergara as Princeton and Rod was also quite likeable. He was very expressive in voice and movement, though I did find that he sometimes drew more attention to himself than the puppets. He has an incredible voice, but would often add flourishes that I felt didn’t really fit with the tone of the show.

The other performers were all pleasant to watch as well. Joey Graff had a great roster of voices for Nicky, Trekkie Monster, and one of the Bad Idea Bears. Jenna Daley was very funny as Gary Coleman (yes, the one “from TV’s Different Strokes“), and I felt she brought a lot of humour to a role that, at it’s core, is a bit of an outdated reference.

The music was as catchy and funny as I’ve seen and heard it performed. The band’s accompaniment for this production is canned (i.e. recorded), and sometimes the actors would be a bit ahead or behind, something that can be corrected by a skilled live band. This wasn’t too noticeable though, and I still really enjoyed hearing the tunes. My favourite numbers were the intro and finale ensemble pieces (“It Sucks to be Me” and “For Now”) and Kate Monster’s more serious “There’s a Fine, Fine Line.” My guest was enthralled by the always-hilarious “You Can Be as Loud as the Hell You Want (When You’re Makin’ Love).”

I’m not sure how eager I’d be to see this musical performed for a third time. However, the LOT is putting on a perfectly good production of Avenue Q in these next two months, and if you’ve never seen it performed, you should go. My guest was seeing it for the first time, and he wouldn’t stop talking about how funny it was for the rest of the night, even raving about it to some other friends later. As for me, despite my criticisms, I did sincerely enjoy this show and would absolutely recommend it.

Details:

  • Avenue Q is playing at the Lower Ossington Theatre (100 Ossington Ave.)
  • Contains Coarse Language, Sexual Content, Sensitive Subject Matter
  • Performances run until January 29th, 2017
  • Shows are at 7:30 PM (Thurs/Fri/Sat) with matinee performances at 3:30 PM Sun & Sat.
  • Tickets range $50-$60.
  • You can buy the tickets online or at the LOT box-office.

Photo of the cast of Avenue Q provided by the Lower Ossington Theatre.