“What do you do with a BA in English? What is my life going to be?”
With these lines, the audience immediately identifies with Princeton, the recent graduate who is searching for his purpose in life. Like all characters in the show, he finds himself at a crossroads that leaves him simultaneously elated at the possibilities and terrified of the consequences. Danny Gavlik (Class of 2019) plays the doe-eyed Princeton in W&J’s performance of Avenue Q. Gavlik brought not only his obvious vocal talent, but also his ability to make Princeton’s innocence sympathetic to audiences. Even when he wrongs Kate Monster, adorably performed by Xan Sayers (Class of 2016), he manages to keep the audience on his side as he muses about going back to college and reliving the days when he felt as though opportunities were endless.
A pivotal plot development is leaving behind Kate so that Princeton can search for his purpose in life. Their relationship not only feeds Kate’s fantasies- it also gives Princeton a sense that he has fully grown up. However, he quickly finds that forgoing his personal life does not improve his chances of finding purpose through his work. He ultimately finds redemption in giving Kate her dream and reveling in her happiness.
Audiences were not there for the family-friendly story of redemption, however. Most notably, students found themselves shocked at the crude humor that director Dr. Karin Maresh, kept in the show. “Everyone’s A Little Bit Racist” “The Internet is for Porn” and “You Can Be as Loud as the Hell You Want (When You’re Makin’ Love)” exposed the show’s blatant affinity for shocking audience members with blunt, and sometimes insensitive, humor.
This humor worked well for the students in attendance, as Carolyn Tomlinson (Class of 2016) commented “It was really funny and I really enjoyed it.” She admitted, however, that “Some of the talent was subpar.”
Emily Riazzi (Class of 2017) admits to feeling much the same, saying “Avenue Q, the play itself, was very funny and entertaining. While the brilliant set design and access to puppets took the show to a whole new level, and some fantastic new talent graced the W&J stage for the first time, more rehearsals or different casting for some characters may have made the show more of a success.”
Though some characters seemed to be miscast in the students’ eyes, Jacob Beabout (Class of 2019) and Maia Ervin (Class of 2019) were perhaps perfectly cast as Trekkie Monster and Gary Coleman, respectively. Beabout delighted the audience with his good comedic timing and iconic Trekkie Monster voice that students can find on the Original Broadway Cast album of Avenue Q. Ervin, meanwhile, showcased her astounding vocal strength and range that is required for the spitfire role.
With a small, tight-knit cast, there truly weren’t any small roles, and for their part, no small actors either. Nicholas Baker (Class of 2018), Jeremy Glasner (Class of 2019), Holly DeLouche (Class of 2016), Adrian Elizondo (Class of 2017), Nalyn Sriwattanakomen (Class of 2016), Debra Kaplan (Class of 2018), Kayla Marasia (Class of 2019) and Kristian Amundson (Class of 2019) each graced the stage with winning performances that supplied the show with interesting threads and hilarious scenarios.
Students related to Baker and Glasner’s tense roommate situation, full of the typical love-hate friendship that all roommates undergo. Their performances were not only endearing, but wholly enjoyable because of their witty banter and chemistry. They cannot claim sole ownership of good chemistry, however, as Elizondo and Sriwattanakomen portrayed a realistic vision of the tensions that arise in relationships. Though not as tumultuous as the relationship between Princeton and Kate, their love reiterated that relationships are hard work, but well worth the effort.
DeLoache played the memorable Lucy with confidence and charisma, no easy feat for a character that is often portrayed in a mocking manner. Complete with her own unique character arc, Lucy represents new beginnings through the idea that even something as small as a penny can change your life.
Presenting themselves in various roles, Kaplan, Marasia and Amundson each took on the arduous task of portraying multiple puppets. Kaplan captured the crotchety Mrs. Thistletwat while Marasia and Amundson captured the brilliant enthusiasm of the Bad Idea Bears. Famous for their inappropriate language and jokes, the Bad Idea Bears spurred Princeton on to make the terrible choices of wasting money and taking advantage of a bad situation with arguments such as “Take her home—she’s wasted.” With controversial lines and jokes, it is interesting to note the success of this musical because of the inappropriateness. It is arguable that the very nature of taking on taboo topics is what audiences, especially student audiences, wish to see in modern musicals.
Despite everything, the departing message is the critical one: “Everything in life is only for now.”