Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay
I have found Avenue Q incredibly easy to love after seeing the original production in New York, and others in London and Los Angeles. Director Dennis Lickteig's production of this cast is a more energy-driven presentation. He has allowed the stars of the show, the songs, to sparkle, and leaves them in the very capable vocals of the cast. He matches the cast's attractive vocal tones with nicely unforced performances, resisting the temptation to go into larger than life cartoons.
Kyle Stoner is outstanding as restless college graduate Princeton and anxious banker Rod. Stoner's singing voice as Princeton is pitch perfect and he contrasts this strongly with a completely different sound as Rod. Audrey Baker is wonderful as the idealistic kindergarten teacher Kate Monster. She also has honeyed, natural vocal cords and a sultry, sexy voice for nightclub singer Lucy the Slut. Brendon North is splendid as slacker Nicky and cranky, porn-obsessed Trekkie Monster. He has to switch voices from the lovely vocal cords of Nicky to the guttural sound of Trekkie. Monica Ho's characterization of Christmas Eve is terrific. Her breakout vocal in the comic torch song "The More You Ruv Someone" is pitch perfect. Scott Dilorenzo is excellent as imperturbable fiance Brian, and Venessa Vaccianna gives a first rate performance as Gary Coleman. Juliana Lustenader plays various parts, including Mrs. T. and Bad Idea Bear, and is fine in the various parts.
Kuo-Hao Lo's scenic design is an obvious homage to "Sesame Street." Matthew Lee Cannon on keyboard, Amanda Wu on bass, and Tim Vaughan on percussion ably assist the singers off stage.
Avenue Q performs through January 22, 2017, at the New Conservatory Theatre Center Decker Theatre, 25 Van Ness Ave, San Francisco. Performances on Tuesday and Wednesday feature the Purple Cast;, performances Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday matinee at 2pm feature the Orange Cast. Tickets and Box Office are at 415-861-8972 or www.nctcsf.org. Coming next is Michael McKeever's Daniel's Husband opening January 20 and running through February 26.