Avenue Q at Boulder’s Dinner Theatre – Like nothing you expect

Avenue Q Kate & Christmas Eve
Avenue Q at Boulder's Dinner Theatre runs through November 3, 2012. (Courtesy photo)

Dinner theaters often produce shows that will appeal to a mass audience, and old Broadway musicals are the norm. So when I go to dinner theater, I’m usually familiar with the production. Last weekend was the exception to that rule, and it was refreshing to have no preconceived notions about the show I was about to see at Boulder’s Dinner Theater.

In the spring, we saw “Cinderella” at BDT, and were pleasantly surprised to find a new, expanded menu. This time we started with the artichoke spinach dip appetizer, and I have to admit to enjoying the hummus platter on our last visit much more. Our entrees, however, were both outstanding. I opted for the potato cod served with Spanish rice and vegetables. The cod was flaky, and the chipotle aioli drizzle was packed with flavor. Ryan ordered the chicken cordon bleu, because it never disappoints.

As we ate dinner, we admired the stage set. It’s an authentic looking New York apartment building, complete with trash can and fire escape. It reminded both Ryan and I of Michael Garman’s Magic Town in his Old Colorado City studio.

“Avenue Q” is a puppet show for adults, and the winner of three Tony Awards. While the presentation is something you’ve probably never seen before, the story is ages old.

Avenue Q entire cast
Courtesy photo

Princeton is fresh out of college with a BA in English, and finds the only apartment he can afford is on Avenue Q, a not-so-trendy part of New York City. While he searches for his purpose in life he meets his neighbors, an eclectic bunch that includes an engaged interracial couple, an assistant kindergarten teacher, an odd couple, a porn-junkie and Gary Coleman as the apartment super.

The last character is somewhat confusing, but the creators of “Avenue Q” thought the Coleman character epitomized the play’s central themes, and those themes involve the misconception that we are somehow special and the painful realization that comes with learning life is much harder than anyone told us it was going to be when we were children.

There are only six cast members in “Avenue Q,” but they have more talent than most much larger casts – they sing, they puppeteer, they change characters and voices on a dime, and they keep the audience in stitches.

While Princeton (Brett Ambler) and Kate (Ellen Kaye) are the two main characters, I can’t pick a favorite in “Avenue Q” because the entire cast works their butts off in this show. MariJane Scott, new to BDT, plays Christmas Eve, one of two “humans” in the show, and Scott Beyette is her fiancé Brian. Beyette proved his comedic chops when he was Don Lockwood in BDT’s production of “Singin’ in the Rain” in 2010, while Scott proves hers in this musical.

puppets in Avenue Q
Courtesy Photo

Joanie Brosseau and Seth Caikowski round out the cast, and these two often perform together as one puppet – each taking an arm. They are also two of the funniest characters in the musical, the Bad Idea Bears. These are the friends we’ve all had (or have been) through the years, the ones who suggest shots at 2 a.m. just before leaving the bar.

“Avenue Q” is much more relatable and poignant than you might think. Numbers like, “We’re all a little racist,” points to the hypocrisy that is rampant in today’s society. “I Wish I Could Go Back to College,” reminds us of how easy we had it in college, and why we can’t go back.

This musical is not for children, so unless you want to explain what those puppets are doing in that bedroom scene, leave the kids at home. However, “Avenue Q” reminds adults, in a not-so-subtle way, to take life less seriously, and live in the moment, because all you’ve really got is now.

I’ve been attending Boulder’s Dinner Theatre for a decade, but BDT is celebrating its 35th year in Colorado, and they set the bar for professionalism in the industry. “Avenue Q” is on stage at Boulder’s Dinner Theatre through November 3. To buy tickets go to BouldersDinnerTheatre.com  and be sure to like BDT’s new Facebook page.

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