“Avenue Q” Wins Over Raleigh Audiences

The Hot Summer Nights and Theatre Raleigh cast for "Avenue Q" includes (from left) Yolanda W. Rabun, Jessie R. Gephardt, Erik Floor, Maya Naff and Adam Poole (photo by Lauren Kennedy )
The Hot Summer Nights and Theatre Raleigh cast for “Avenue Q” includes (from left) Yolanda W. Rabun, Jessie R. Gephardt, Erik Floor, Maya Naff and Adam Poole (photo by Lauren Kennedy)

Avenue Q is a sometimes-raunchy but always-sweet musical. While Hot Summer Nights’ production nails the sweet part, it often glazes over the raunchy bits. Yes, there is a sex scene involving nude puppets, a scene that the cast enacts with gusto, but much of the show’s raunchiness is delivered in a way that softens the blow. Swear words are mumbled and vulgar actions are hidden, as if director Richard Roland had doubts about whether or not Raleigh was ready for the show.

In spite of that, an incredibly gifted cast (of both humans and puppets!) delivers solid performances. Erik Floor, with his baby-face and sweet voice, is the perfect puppeteer for Princeton, a recent college graduate who moves to Avenue Q in the hopes of finding his “purpose,” and also because it’s the only location he can afford. Floor also handles Rod, a Republican with a not-so-hidden secret. In fact, most of the cast, with the exception of human characters Brian (Jesse Gephart), Christmas Eve (Maya Naff), and Gary Coleman (Yolanda Rabun), is responsible for commanding multiple puppets. Annie Floor, who plays Princeton’s love interest, Kate Monster, and Kate’s rival, Lucy, is particularly adept at this. She switches effortlessly between her two characters, sometimes voicing one puppet while holding another. Rabun is yet another standout with her hilarious, gruff portrayal of former child star and current Avenue Q superintendent Gary Coleman. Naff’s heavily-accented and overly tacky Christmas Eve adds in even more silly fun. And while slender Gephart might not be the perfect physical match for the heavyset Brian character, he makes up for his lack of physical suitability with a goofy, energized performance.

Hilarious musical numbers abound, including a very well choreographed “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist,” and a too-funny “You Can Be As Loud as the Hell You Want (When You’re Making Love.)” All of this is set against the backdrop of the rustic apartment building, a set cleverly designed by Chris Bernier. It features a screen that displays words and pictures as needed and occasionally gives viewers a glimpse into the characters’ apartments, as well as innovative panels which open outward to reveal miniature apartments. Unfortunately, on opening night, there were a few snares in other areas. The lighting occasionally lagged behind the action, and the screen cut off the “S” in “Schadenfreude” during the musical number of the same name.

Despite a few minor issues, however, this production is ultimately a success. For anyone who longs to see a kid’s show for adults and to learn or re-learn a few important lessons about what it means to be a grown-up, this is the show to see.

For more information about Hot Summer Nights, Theatre Raleigh and the 2012 season, visit www.HotSummerNightsAtTheKennedy.org

Avenue Q tickets

SECOND OPINION: Aug. 17th Raleigh, NC BroadwayWorld.com Raleigh review by Larissa Mount: http://raleigh.broadwayworld.com/article/BWW-Reviews-Hot-Summer-Nights-Theatre-Raleighs-AVENUE-Q-is-a-Hilarious-Hit-20120817 and interview with Avenue Q director Richard Roland and the cast, conducted by Larissa Mount: http://raleigh.broadwayworld.com/article/BWW-Interviews-Talking-AVENUE-Q-with-Fletcher-Operas-Director-and-Cast-20120815; Aug. 16th Raleigh, NC News & Observer review by Roy C. Dicks: http://www.newsobserver.com/2012/08/16/2273068/hot-summer-nights-avenue-q-is.html; Aug. 14th Raleigh, NC WRAL-TV interview with Adam Poole, conducted by Michelle Marsh: http://www.wral.com/entertainment/video/11426190/#/vid11426190; and Aug. 9th Charlotte, NC QNotes interview with Richard Roland, conducted by Matt Comer: http://goqnotes.com/16516/fresh-air-director-lauds-raleigh-arts-scene/. (Note: To read Triangle Arts & Entertainment’s online version of Triangle Theater Review’s Aug. 13th preview by Robert W. McDowell, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2012/08/hsn-and-tr-will-present-a-zany-pg-13-production-of-avenue-q-on-aug-15-19-in-fletcher-opera-theater/.)

Hot Summer Nights and Theatre Raleigh present AVENUE Q at 8 p.m. Aug. 16 and 17, 2 and 8 p.m. Aug. 18, and 3 p.m. Aug. 19 in the A.J. Fletcher Opera Theater in the Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. South St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27601.

TICKETS: $24-$35.

BOX OFFICE: 866-811-4111 or https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/cal/27655/1343865600000.

INFORMATION: 919-480-5166 or info@hotsummernightsatthekennedy.org.

SHOW/PRESENTER/SEASON: http://www.hotsummernightsatthekennedy.org/.

VENUE: http://www.progressenergycenter.com/venue/fletcher-opera-theater.

DIRECTIONS: http://www.progressenergycenter.com/directions.

PARKING: http://www.progressenergycenter.com/parking.

NOTE: Buy orchestra and balcony tickets for HALF PRICE for the 8 p.m. Thursday, August 16th, and 2 p.m. Saturday, August 18th, performances of Avenue Q by using the BOGO promo code buy1get1 when you place your order.


The Musical: http://www.avenueq.com/ (official website), http://mtishows.com/show_detail.asp?showid=000321 (Music Theatre International), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avenue_Q (Wikipedia).

Robert Lopez: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Lopez (Wikipedia).

Jeff Marx: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeff_Marx (Wikipedia).

Jeff Whitty: http://www.whitless.com/ (official website) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeff_Whitty (Wikipedia).

Richard Roland: http://www.richardroland.com/ (official website).

By Susie Potter

Susie Potter is a 2009 graduate of Meredith College where she majored in English. She holds graduate degrees in teaching and American literature from North Carolina Statue University. In addition to her work for Triangle Arts and Entertainment, she is an award-winning author of short fiction. Works have appeared in The Colton Review, Raleigh Quarterly, Broken Plate Magazine, Big Muddy: A Journal of the Mississippi River Valley, the Chaffey Review, and Existere. For more information visit SusiePotter.com.