Avenue Q puppets

Avenue Q tells the story of a recent college grad (Princeton) who arrives in the Big Apple ready to conquer the world. The high cost of apartment rentals around town has brought him to Avenue Q, where upon his first day in the hood, he learns that the job he moved for has been taken away due to downsizing. So begins our protagonist’s quest for purpose.

Princeton soon meets Kate Monster, who has dreams of her own, and the two eventually fall in love. That’s just a couple of the story lines in this two hour, 15 minute (plus 15 minute intermission) Arts Club Theatre production.


Lovingly told by a cast of puppets and their puppeteers, this popular Broadway musical stole my heart. Two or three songs in and you get what’s going on here: a modern-day Sesame Street filled with reality and soul.

Set Designer Marshall McMahen creates a detail-rich apartment row with windows and doors that open and shut to reveal the cast during the show. Look around at intermission and you’ll find garbage strewn in spots as well as cigarette butts, gum wrappers, and a hypodermic needle set onto the floor. So far away from Sesame Street.

Trekkie Monster
[Trekkie Monster]

Especially entertaining is Trekkie Monster, a porn-loving creature bearing a similar voice and gruff look to Cookie Monster, but that’s where the similarities end.

The songs are brilliant and feature talented vocalists such as Kayla Dunbar, Shannon Chan-Kent, and Evangelia Kambites (whose portrayal of actor Gary Coleman is a riot). Yep, you heard that right. How Avenue Q includes ex-child actor Gary Coleman is anybody’s guess, but the character fits right in as an apartment building super, complete with 70’s afro.

Both puppets and human characters work together in this fine cast. A four-piece band plays behind the iron gates between the apartment buildings, with keyboardist Sean Bayntun the only member visible from the audience.

With titles such as Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist, The Internet is For Porn, Schadenfreude, and If You Were Gay, it’s not hard to imagine the kind of un-PC things the puppets get up to.

Talented Vancouver actor Scott Bellis is responsible for Nicky, Trekkie Monster, and one of the Bad Idea Bears, twins who pop up at inopportune moments. Their task? To suggest anything that will get the other puppets into trouble, including spending rent money on beer and leaving a noose behind for one of the puppets who’s temporarily down on his luck.

Princeton, Andy Toth, Trekkie Monster, Shannon Chan-Kent, Kate Monster
[Princeton, Andy Toth, Trekkie Monster, Shannon Chan-Kent, Kate Monster]

It’s particularly refreshing to see the actors mimic their puppet’s character rather than hide behind them. Their movements glide along in unison with the puppets. And yes, there’s puppet sex and a slutty puppet character (Lucy the Slut), but the heart of the production is watching the characters grow and learn from their experiences. It’s fun to note that Kayla Dunbar works both Kate Monster and Lucy at various times on stage, two characters that couldn’t be more different from one another.

Bert and Ernie are replaced with Rod and Nicky. Other than a similar Ernie chuckle and Bert’s long, narrow head, these are where the similarities end. Three human characters – Brian (Andy Toth), Christmas Eve (Shannon Chan-Kent), and Evangelina Kambites (as the aforementioned child actor) interact beautifully with the puppet world. The end is one big happy moment where the cast realize they’re happy “for now”.

Fun video segments designed by Michael Sider (shown on two screens above left and right sides of the stage) introduce the play and add additional moments of hilarity to the evening.

A charmer from start to finish, Avenue Q continues at the Granville Island Stage through August 3.

Photos by Emily Cooper.


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