Arts and Entertainment

Life on Not-so-easy Street: BPA presents edgy musical ‘Avenue Q’ for mature audiences

Shannon Dowling is Lucy in Bainbridge Performing Arts’ production of  “Avenue Q.”  - Kim Scott-Olson photo
Shannon Dowling is Lucy in Bainbridge Performing Arts’ production of “Avenue Q.”
— image credit: Kim Scott-Olson photo

The best musical productions offer audiences an entertaining show while illustrating meaningful life lessons through the story of the characters.

Bainbridge Performing Arts’ latest production, “Avenue Q,” opening at 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 9 is no exception.

In this hilarious and modern musical, audiences are taught the answers to some of the most crucial and vexing concerns of our age including: What one should really do with a B.A. in English; the true purpose of the internet (it’s not what you think, or maybe it is); why everyone is at least a little racist - and why it’s a good thing; and whether or not Gary Coleman would be a good landlord.

Also, there are puppets.

The show, helmed by the returning favorite BPA directorial duo of Ken Michels (director) and Josh Anderson (musical director), tells the story of a group of unique 20-somethings, some humans and some puppets, making their way in the big city and living and loving on the seedy street between Avenues P and R.

Think of it as a racy mixture of “Friends” and “Sesame Street” set to music.

This production marks the third collaboration between Michels and Anderson, and both agreed that it promised to be a very memorable show.

“The physicality of the show - it is a puppet show - but I’ve been working with the actors and really encouraging them, this will sound zen but, to become one with the puppet,” said Michels. “So then it isn’t just a puppet being presented, but you are now giving the puppet the emotion and giving it its physicality because the puppets are only basically half a body.”

Michels said that, although he and Anderson had both worked with puppets before, it was a first for most of the cast.

“Obviously we [all] played with them as kids or whatever,” he said. “But [it’s very different] to be able to work a rod, a rod puppet, or a live arm puppet where you have another person being your left hand or your right hand and you have to clap. There’s a lot of new experiences.”

While most major productions featuring feats of puppeteering have many months or even years to practice, Michels said that the cast of BPA’s “Avenue Q” had been forced to master the necessary aspects of the craft quite quickly.

“When you get the right cast, when you get the right people, you get the right situations,” he said.

One such member of a cast full of “the right people” is returning BPA favorite Justin Lynn, who plays “Brian” one of the non-puppet roles in the show.

“It’s really hard not to look the actor in the eye,” Lynn said of working opposite a puppet. “There’s one part in particular where I keep catching myself.”

The cast also boats three new names making their BPA debuts: Kylee Gano, who plays Kate Monster; Gregory Conn, who plays Trekkie Monster and Kayla Teel, who plays several roles including the harsh-voiced Mrs. Thistletwat.

“Kayla’s our ensemble,” Michels said. “Usually shows have an ensemble of 10 or 15. We have Kayla.”

The show’s musical offerings are “deceptively simple,” according to Anderson.

“With a show like this you can always pull it out of the box,” he said, referring to the success of the original script. “The material is great, but what we’ve done here is take stuff out of the box, and then unpack the box a little bit more. Even though people may hear things they recognize, there’s a different take on it. A broader perspective, I guess.”

The show boasts several original scenes and additions, including the custom-made, original puppets created by the prop team of Michels, prop master Kayla Rabe and video designer Luke Walker.

“Avenue Q” is for PG-13 appropriate audiences due to some mature subject matter, including graphic depictions of puppet sex, and language.

“If you’re going to bring your kids be prepared to have some questions,” Michels laughed. “Just be prepared to have a nice talk, about puppets. Maybe you can use the puppets for the talk?”

‘Avenue Q’

What: BPA’s production of “Avenue Q.”

When: May 9 -25 with shows Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., Sundays at 3:00 p.m., as well as 7:30 p.m Monday, May 19 and Thursday, May 22.

Where: Bainbridge Performing Arts (200 Madison Avenue North).

Admission: Tickets are $27 for adults, $22 for seniors and $19 for students, military and teachers, at www.bainbridgeperformingarts.org, by phone at 206-842-8569 or in person at BPA.

 

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