Theatre Review

Ocean State Theatre’s ‘Avenue Q’ is a blockbuster hit

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The Tony “Triple Crown” musical, “Avenue Q” that beat out “Wicked” for top honors, taking Best Musical, Best Score, and Best Book, also earns my award for Best Way To Enjoy the Rest of Your Summer.

This is our second time around for the clever, hysterical show, and it is one of those rare shows that is better the second time around.

Much of that is due to the terrific cast that director Jason Parrish has assembled for a production that demands much from its actors. Not only do they require good voices, they have to handle puppets while mimicking their every move.

Tommy Labanaris, one of Ocean State’s finest, plays the lead character, Princeton, a lost soul who has moved to the low rent Avenue Q, looking for his purpose in life.

His opening line is from a song that sets the pace and the mood for what follows: What do you do with a B.A. in English?” (Something I can relate to).

The song leads into “It Sucks to Be Me” and “If You Were Gay,” laying more groundwork for a musical comedy that is current, politically incorrect, naughty, laugh-out-loud funny, and still leaves you with important messages – if you can stop laughing long enough.

Labanaris also plays the gay character Rod, who also has his moments and not so subtle messages on tolerance.

The plot centers around a person’s (or puppet’s) need for purpose in life. The characters are all searching in their own way, tempted by two hilarious Bad-Idea Bears.

Racism, homelessness, homosexuality, porn on the Internet, sex (yes, there is puppet sex and nudity), and even monster love, are all given their moments, enhanced by some of the most clever lyrics you’ll ever hear in a Broadway musical.

Also returning to OSTC is Rochelle Weinrauch, who plays Princeton’s love interest, Kate Monster, and her rival and sexy temptress, Lucy.

What makes Labanaris and Weinrich – and the rest of the cast – so great is their ability to mimic the puppet characters they are manipulating. It is so much fun to watch both puppet and actor at the same time.

Another actor we’ve seen and loved before is Lovely Hoffman, who plays the apartment super, Gary Coleman. That’s right, Gary Coleman. Now you know where he ended up.

The band is great, and the one set does the job perfectly, making for a totally fun night at the theatre.

“Avenue Q” is intelligent adult theatre. It is naughty, but oh so nice.

“Avenue Q” is at Warwick’s Ocean State Theatre Company, 1245 Jefferson Boulevard in Warwick through August 21. Tickets are $39-$59, and there’s not a bad seat in the house. Call 921-6800 for reservations.

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