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“Gee, I shouldn’t be spending my parents’ money on beer.” Nope—this time, it’s not a fellow Buff talking himself down at Liquor Mart. It’s Princeton, a bright-eyed English graduate arguing with a pair of stuffed animals that refer to themselves as the “Bad Idea Bears.” But the thing is, Princeton himself is no more than a stuffed animal himself, being the lead puppet in Boulder’s Dinner Theatre’s (BDT) performance of “Avenue Q.”
From “I’m Not Wearing Underwear Today,” to “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist,” the song list in the show’s program reads like a list of South Park episodes. In fact, the show has been likened to the bizarre love-child of “South Park” and “Sesame Street,” taking adult humor and singing it from the perspective of a ragtag group of puppets, plus a few real people.
“Avenue Q” became an unlikely smash hit when it was first performed off-Broadway in 2003. The show has gained a wide following in years since, evidenced by the popularity of the song, “The Internet Is For Porn,” as an internet meme in 2005.
Every cast member at BDT graced the audience with stellar performances both on and off-stage. In performance, they harmonize flawlessly, hit their laugh lines with acute timing, with many actors playing more than one character. In between acts, however, they serve the patrons their food, allowing for a real sense of community audience members don’t typically get from regular theaters.
The menu at BDT had an impressive selection for a dinner theater, and many of the meals were completely covered by the ticket cost. Appetizers, desserts, and specialty entrees like Prime Rib cost a bit extra; however, the regular cost-covered “feature” items were impressive enough. The menu boasts a Chicken Cordon Bleu that was juicy, flavorful and filling—it was listed as being the “patrons’ favorite,” which is no surprise.
As for the performance, actress Ellen Kaye, playing Kate Monster and Lucy the Slut, stood out even more than the “star” of the show Princeton (animated by Brett Ambler). While Ambler’s performance was impressive, it was Kaye who consistently stole the spotlight, especially during a scene at a café where Kate Monster has to confront Lucy the Slut, who is trying to steal her date. Though Kaye was animating Lucy, she voiced both characters, essentially arguing with herself. The voices of the two characters starkly contrast, Kate being the cutesy, squeaky little girl-next-door, while Lucy has a deeper, sexy, cabaret-singer voice. Kaye so flawlessly switched between the characters, it was easy to forget the two puppets were being voiced by a single performer.
While the puppet-actors shone, some of the human characters left more to be desired. MariJune Scott played Christmas Eve, the Asian-American neighborhood therapist whose thick Japanese accent is the butt of many jokes (including the song, “The More You Ruv Someone”). Instead of adapting the subtle nuances of the accent to her character, Scott tended to push the accent for the laughs , which made a liberal Boulder audience uncomfortable.
Scott Beyette stood-in for Brian Jackson for the role of Brian, Christmas Eve’s lazy, funny-guy fiancée. Beyette’s take on the character fell flat at his few shining moments, including the song, “I’m Not Wearing Underwear Today,” Brian’s first of two solos. Beyette portrayed Brian as an all-around likeable kind of guy who is kicked around by Christmas Eve. However, moments like the “Underwear” song suggested he is more of an over-the-top slapstick character who can get annoying fast.
Overall Boulder’s Dinner Theatre’s performance of “Avenue Q” is a must-see for any college student looking for something a little different on a fun night out. Starting at $35, a ticket to BDT might actually save you some money from the typical dinner-and-a-movie.
Boulder’s Dinner Theatre is located at 5501 Arapahoe Avenue and “Avenue Q” runs through November 3.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Sarah Elsea at Sarah.firstname.lastname@example.org.