Theater Review: AVENUE Q (Revolution Stage Company in Palm Springs)

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by Tony Frankel on January 12, 2024

in Theater-Palm Springs (Coachella Valley)


Avenue Q, the delightful musical comedy which affectionately lampoons Sesame Street, opened last night to a packed house at Revolution Stage Company, and it’s a non-stop, positively adorable romp which will have you floating out of the theater, but the run is short, so don’t procrastinate to get seats. Songwriters Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx have conceived a deceptively simple idea: what would happen if you were to incorporate Life Lessons a child would learn on Saturday morning TV (“what’s my purpose?”) with adult situations (yes, puppets — created by Laura Stearns — have sex with each other!)? Book writer Jeff Whitty ties the astoundingly hummable and funny songs together by concentrating on the relationships of the struggling denizens of New York’s run-down Alphabet City. Much of the fun is derived from the creators’ ability to poke fun at current issues (racism, homophobia, miscegenation) without insulting the audience – you can palpably sense the steam escape from the pressure cooker of political correctness with each guffaw and chortle emanating from the crowd.

Steve Giboney, Phylicia Mason, Sam Moffatt, Kelly McDaniel, Joseph Portoles

With Steve Giboney‘s perfectly realized set, there are — as with Sesame Street — human characters interacting with the puppets. Looking for “Purpose,” Princeton (Patrick Wallace) discovers how unprepared he is (“What Do You Do with a B.A. in English?”) for the rest of his days. Aiming for Avenue A but settling for Avenue Q, he meets its equally life-challenged residents: Judging by their contagious anthem “It Sucks to Be Me,” it’s definitely no street of dreams. And here’s where the sardonically updated songs and witty book underline the vulnerability of idealism by exposing illusions: “You Can Be As Loud As the Hell You Want (When You’re Making Love),” “Schadenfreude” (makes you feel good about others’ sorrows), “If You Were Gay” (it would be okay), “There Is Life Outside Your Apartment,” and, of course, “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist” (possibly the Republican national anthem).

Steve Giboney, Patrick Wallace, Christine Michele, Phylicia Mason, Alisha Bates

Wrong assumptions lead to unnecessary disillusionment, but there’s no problem that a helpful song sung by sufferers in solidarity can’t cure. Preston’s possible girlfriend Kate Monster (Phylicia Mason), a kindergarten teaching assistant who wants to start a “Monstersori” school for “people of fur,” just needs to cross that “fine, fine line” between friendship and love. Would-be comic Brian (Steve Giboney) has to push himself beyond underwear jokes. His Japanese fiancée Christmas Eve (Christine Michelle) has anger issues but it’s nothing a marriage can’t manage.

Phylicia Mason and Patrick Wallace

A closeted Republican, Rod (Samuel Moffatt) fancies his determinedly straight roommate Nicky (Joseph Portoles), a slacker wanna-be. Refusing to come out, Rod via Moffatt gets one of the funniest songs in the show, “My Girlfriend, Who Lives in Canada.” Trekkie Monster (Miguel Arballo) — think Oscar the Grouch — insists that “The Internet Is for Porn.” The show’s bad influences — the party-crazy Bad Idea Bears (Kelly McDaniel and Portoles) and Lucy the Slut (Jana Giboney) — represent the ethical dilemmas in our everyday life. Finally, troubled former child-star Gary Coleman (Alisha Bates) is the smiling “super” who presides over the healing.

Phylicia Mason and Miguel Arballo

The actor/puppeteers here are as big-faced and perky as the characters on their hands, but it never distracts. And I must say, having just seen 43 shows in New York last month, I was simply amazed at the level of talent in Palm Springs. Under Musical Director Stephen Hulsey, every single performer not only sang incredibly well, but had distinction which set them apart from each other.

Patrick Wallace, Phylicia Mason, Jana Giboney, Steve Giboney, Alisha Bates, Miguel Arballo

Under James Owen‘s loving direction, this is a perfect gem of a show. By the end the Q clan can only be sure what is just “For Now.” Alas or hurrah, sooner or later we all leave Sesame Street to move onto Avenue Q. But, as this 140-minute triumph reveals, there are worse addresses to learn about life. Like maybe your own.

Kelly McDaniel, Alisha Bates, Joseph Portoles

photos by Jim Cox

Kelly McDaniel, Patrick Wallace, Sam Moffatt

Avenue Q
Revolution Stage Company
611 S. Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs
Tues-Thurs at 7; Sat at 2 & 7 (Jan 20); Sat Jan. 27 and Sun Jan. 28 at 7:30
ends on January 28, 2024
for tickets ($35-$45), visit Revolution

Patrick Wallace, Alisha Bates, Sam Moffatt, Christine Michele,
Kelly McDaniel, Joseph Portoles, Phylicia Mason, Steve Giboney

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Shirelle Alexander March 3, 2024 at 11:26 am

I’m interested in a ticket for the women’s comedy show this month


Tony Frankel March 3, 2024 at 9:39 pm

Just contact the theater at the link above.


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