HART brings 'Avenue Q' to life

By Mary Ann Enloe | Sep 25, 2013
Photo by: John Highsmith

HART hits one out of the ballpark with the smart and sassy Sesame Street for grown-ups, "Avenue Q."

The Tony-award winning musical finished a successful six-year run on Broadway and is playing now to record crowds off-Broadway. Several at HART's Friday opening night performance had seen it in Manhattan.

Avenue Q is brilliant and bawdy. Think X-rated Big Bird. The raunchy rip-snorter is a 21st century look at people who, through puppets, are searching for a purpose in life.  Early in the hilarity, a stellar James Meador and his puppet alter-ego Princeton get folks ready for what's to come with the song "What Do You Do With a B. A. in English?"

The songs — cleverly-written and performed to perfection — plunge quickly into various depths of incorrectness, from "Everyone's a Little Bit Racist" to "I'm Not Wearing Underwear Today." Tucked in between "The Internet is for Porn" and "It Sucks to be Me" is a gem of a melody with exquisite lyrics about love gone wrong:

"There's a fine, fine line between a lover and a friend. There's a thin, thin line between reality and pretend.

For my own sanity, I've got to close the door and walk away.

There's a fine, fine line between love, and a waste of time."

Kristen Hedberg, a classically trained opera singer who is no stranger to HART, handles her puppet persona Kate Monster like she's on Broadway, and one doesn't want the forlorn Kate's song to end.

Jordana McMahon brings Lucy T. Slut to life and the audience loves her--uh, them. Lucy T. walks Avenue Q, and not to take the night air. After the show, McMahon said working with a puppet wasn't easy. "It finally clicked this week," she said.

Who hasn't had Bad Idea Bears climb into his head? HART veterans Sean Bruce and Strother Stingley bring the perfect Bad Idea Bears to life. Stingley doubles as Trekkie Monster, and Trekkie and the ensemble bring the house down with "The Internet is for Porn."

Avenue Q's music, written by the play's authors Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx, is peppy and fun, and music director Chuck Taft works his magic. A patron was overhead Friday night at intermission exclaiming, "There's an orchestra down there! I thought they were using a recording from the Broadway show."

Director Charles Mills, a 20-year veteran with HART and a Tuscola alumnus, has always known what to do with actors. He proves with Avenue Q that he can handle puppets, too. Mills has assembled the perfect cast for HART's latest production.

Steven Lloyd, HART Executive Director for 23 years, said he was afraid at first of a couple of lines in the ribald revelry.  "It isn't Brigadoon or Hello, Dolly," he said before the show. "But we can't change lines because that would be an infringement of copyright laws. We either do a show or we don't."

Leave the children at home and treat yourself to a grown-up night on Avenue Q. You'll laugh yourself silly, even if you secretly think you shouldn't. Blame it on the puppets and have a great time.