San Diego Theater Review: AVENUE Q (Coronado Playhouse in Coronado)

Post image for San Diego Theater Review: AVENUE Q (Coronado Playhouse in Coronado)

by Milo Shapiro on January 25, 2015

in Theater-Los Angeles,Theater-Regional


In the right setting, irreverence is so jovial. Perhaps our era of thought-police and political correctness has made it delicious to pervert that which seems simple and pure solely for the sake of entertainment, but musicals such as The Producers and The Book of Mormon are packing them in. Just as mighty is Avenue Q, the musical satire which centers on the denizens of a street in New York’s East Village who struggle to survive in a world that belies what they were taught by today’s culture. It’s tough to feel unique when, as the characters and their Muppet-like counterparts discover, “It Sucks to Be Me.” Even the tongue-in-cheek title implies the harsh realities for those raised to believe they could do anything: In Alphabet City, Avenue A is where southeastern Manhattan starts to get sketchy, worsening with each increasing letter; the letters stop at “D” so the fictional “Q” implies it must be really bad.


Created in the style of Sesame Street, the mockery of this chamber musical is balanced by elements of the TV classic’s wholesomeness. Within that framework, the shocking raunchiness is, ironically, easier to take in good humor. Warnings that this is an adult show surround all advertising, but in the end, well…c’mon…half of the characters are puppets. Some are sweet, some are vulgar, but most have aspects of each. Additionally charming is that, as with Sesame Street, the humans don’t react in any way to the fact that many of their friends are monsters or small, colorful creatures.

For that matter, the human characters don’t see that people are blatantly walking around manipulating their puppet friends. Unlike some Japanese puppetry, where the human is masked in black so the audience can tune them out, the puppeteers here are as big-faced and perky as the characters on their hands. This may sound like it would be a distraction, but it isn’t.


With puppetry being a rare study for actors, it’s a credit to the performers that they handle the puppets so adeptly while tackling lyrics, lines, blocking and dancing. Puppet Master Joe Fitzpatrick, Jr. and director Jennie Connard clearly invested considerable effort into making sure the puppets come to life. The facial expressiveness of Catie Marron and Joel Miller (as puppet characters Kate Monster and Nicky) serves as an emotional subtitle, enhancing the physical limitations of the puppets’ faces. In particular, Marron shines in Kate’s “There’s a Fine, Fine Line.” Marron’s sweet vocals, precise movement, and tender delivery caused a lump in the throat of this reviewer who has oft heard this torch song. And even though Edgar Diaz-Gutierrez needs to let his puppet Princeton’s mouth close all the way during dialogue to enhance the illusion of speech, he shows great comedic timing. Kyle Best, delightful behind conservative closet-case Rod, strained for higher notes when singing.


Librettist Jeff Whitty and songsmiths Jeff Marx and The Book of Mormon’s Robert Lopez beautifully blend shock value with sweetness. When characters admit to succumbing to some amount of stereotyping, their song “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist” allows us to acknowledge that part of ourselves which laughs secretly at things we cannot talk about in public. And it’s difficult to be put off by “The Internet Is for Porn” as the men—fuzzy and otherwise—gleefully celebrate their masturbatory habits.


The book is clever, funny, and full of twists. To give you an idea just how quirky this script is, Princeton’s superintendent is Gary Coleman. Yes, that Gary Coleman (played uproariously by Taylor Henderson). “Who better,” the creators wrote, “to symbolize the oh-so-special-as-a-kid/but-not-so-special-as-an-adult thing we all faced than Gary Coleman? He’s practically the poster child.”

This intimate production at the Coronado Playhouse compares quite favorably to huge houses like the Civic Theatre. Some songs, such as “For Now,” suffer a bit in richness, but the scaled-down four-piece band does a noble job giving the cast all it needs. The infamous puppet sex scene yields lots of laughter, yet couldn’t compare to the theatrics of a huge stage production. Any quibbles are offset by an energetic production at this small theater, which pulls us in as if we’re amongst those who live on Avenue Q.


photos courtesy of Coronado Playhouse

Avenue Q
Coronado Playhouse
1835 Strand Way in Coronado
Thurs-Sat at 8; Sun at 2
scheduled to end on February 28, 2015
for tickets, call 619.435.4856 or visit

Leave a Comment