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Saturday, July 05, 2014

"Avenue Q" at Stage West Calgary Is Puppet Perfection!

"Avenue Q"
Stage West Calgary

My "Before-Noon" Theatre Review: 

"Avenue Q

at Stage West Calgary

Directed & Choreographed by Mark Bellamy

(5 out of 5 Stars)

What a way to end the latest season over at Stage West Calgary - the award-winning (albeit frequently naughty) "Avenue Q" won over the audience last night with real-life struggles portrayed by shadier versions of The Muppets. 

While not at all a production of the legendary Sesame Street or Muppets creator Jim Henson, you can't ignore the comparison - it's "felt" throughout by the main characters, a variety of puppets and monsters that move the storyline along, while visible puppeteers actually move them through their scenes.

It all works unbelievably well - there are moments when you don't even realize that the puppeteer maneuvering the character that they are holding isn't the actor actually voicing them. Without any effort to hide the humans, they do end up blending in visually, in deference to the puppet leads.

Here though is where I have to say that from a vocal standpoint, this may just be the strongest cast of singers to date at Stage West Calgary - and there have been some amazing vocalists on that stage over the years I have attended. In the roles here, with multiple voices to alternate between, each and every actor delivers wonderfully vocally, and emotionally. Director Mark Bellamy noted that the songs were terrific in an interview prior to the media night presentation, and he wasn't kidding. Who needs "Bring Him Home", when there are so many witty melodies, like plays on racism "Everyone's A Little Bit Racist", or online surfing "The Internet Is For Porn"?? 

Like Les Miz, there are refrains of some songs throughout, like "B.A. In English" and "It Sucks To Be Me" laments that are reprised, nicely anchoring the theme of disappointment that runs throughout the production, while maintaining the heavy sense of humour that dominates the story. 

photos courtesy of Stage West Calgary

Make no mistake. This is an adult show, with graphic scenes and language. Stage West did a great job letting potential audience members know that in advance, in case anyone wasn't already familiar with the show. In the spirit of the story, the naughtiness all worked to big laughs. Despite the lack of a tidy, happy ending, I'd wager that most of the audience left more than satisfied with the experience.

As usual, I have to retain some material for use in my official Calgary Herald review (linked here when that's live in the paper and online), but quickly - Jeremy Crittenden (
Princeton/Rod) and Madeleine Suddaby (Kate/Lucy) were outstanding as were their colleagues Christian Goutsis (Nicky Trekkie) and Selina Wong (vocal powerhouse Christmas Eve), as well as Katrina Reynolds (Gary Coleman), Katherine Fadum, and Daniel Williston (Brian).  

You can find out more by visiting Stage West Calgary, and you can access the piece I wrote earlier for my Calgary Herald Blog, when I sat down with director Mark Bellamy.

You can view that interview on my YouTube Channel, or download it from my podcast site.

Again, I'll post a link once my actual Calgary Herald review runs, but for now, make plans to go get your puppet on at Stage West Calgary - this show is as good as it gets, human or otherwise!




Mrs That Dan Guy said...

An incredibly unique show. I loved the story, the characters, the art of puppetry and the huge vocal talent. This is my favourite play of the year.

ThatDanGuy said...

I would tend to agree with you, kind stranger...