A short review of “Avenue Q” at the Bay Street Theatre at Club One

Last Sunday evening’s production of Avenue Q at the Bay Street Theatre came pretty close to selling out, so if you’re interested in checking out the show on its final weekend, you better reserve tickets right away.

I knew very little about Avenue Q before Sunday night. I knew there were puppets. I knew there were songs. I knew the show had been a big sensation when it was first launched.

So I had few expectations on Sunday, but the Bay Street Theatre’s relatively recent production of Rent was still fresh in my mind — the great voices, the live music, the inventive staging, the youthful vigor in every element of the show.

And those traits were all in Avenue Q too. Under the direction of Jeffrey DeVincent and the musical direction of Brandon Kaufman, the play features great production values and an unpredictable juxtaposition of the absurd, the bawdy, the silly, and the surprisingly moving. The excellent live ensemble keeps the pace moving appropriately fast.

Maybe I was just in a sappy mood, but I found a lot of genuine emotion in the play’s themes revolving around the search for identity and the needless barriers that separate us from the people we care most about. Even when the characters doing the singing are just Muppet-like hand puppets being controlled by black-clad actors.

There are regular human characters too living on Avenue Q — and they’re often sillier and more stereotypical than those portrayed by puppets.

The male and female leads Bryan Pridgen and Brittny Hargrove were especially good. Pridgen plays Princeton, the fresh-faced English major looking for his place in the world; Hargrove plays Kate Monster, a young woman with big aspirations handicapped by being, well, a monster. At one point in the show, the two puppets have a wild, alcohol fueled sexual encounter that just about brings the house down.

But as good as they are at comedy and irony, Pridgen and Hargrove are even better with the romantic songs and their occasionally biting dialogue. I see that Pridgen is an integral member of the new Savannah Stage Company — such ambitious theatrical endeavors and fine productions like Avenue Q give lots of reasons for optimism about the local theatre scene.

The rest of the cast (Thomas Houston, Christopher Stanley, Travis Harold Coles, Cecilia Arango, Kamille Dawkins, Matthew Gunnells, Danielle Frazier, Christopher Stanley, Valerie Macaluso) all have some fine moments

Because of largely silly rules governing establishments that serve alcohol in Savannah, Avenue Q is limited to 21 and up guests on Friday and Saturday, and 18 and up on Sunday.

Click here for tickets.