Schadenfreude and furry monster sex: ‘Avenue Q’ heats up LVLT

Masters of puppets: LVLT stages Avenue Q this month.
Molly O'Donnell

Four stars

Avenue Q July 23-25, 8 p.m.; July 26, 2 & 7 p.m.; $25. Las Vegas Little Theatre, 702-362-7996.

Everyone goes through a few years, or decades, where life sucks and feels like it has no purpose. Apparently even puppets. Avenue Q, the long-running, Tony-winning musical, takes on this rough period in the lives of a few puppets and people. Re-imagining Sesame Street as a real block in a real neighborhood, Q is a street filled with un-PC ditties about the ubiquity of racism, schadenfreude and just plain bad luck.

As dark as this could be, in the hands of Las Vegas Little Theatre the hilarious play is as entertaining as it ever was, furry monster sex and all. The only thing that threatened an otherwise stellar production was the faulty air conditioning, making the 15-minute intermission a necessity instead of a nicety. But if the standing ovation from the sold-out crowd is any indication, the audience took it in stride, singing the show’s “For Now” line about being “a little bit dissatisfied” under their breath unbegrudgingly while fanning themselves with their programs like faithful parishioners.

Las Vegas Little Theatre's cast of Avenue Q.

There was, after all, plenty to distract from any dissatisfaction. Jake Taylor flawlessly played protagonist Princeton who, literally the new puppet on the block, is renting his first apartment and experiencing the tragedies of coming of age. His introduction to reality includes a cast made up of a pseudo-Bert and Ernie couple coming to grips with their sexuality, a wannabe comedian and his Asian-American therapist wife, a porn-addicted monster, the inexplicable character of Gary Coleman, and Kate, an aspiring principal of the first-ever monster school (and Princeton’s love interest).

While Taylor impressively pulls double duty as the closeted Bert counterpart, Rod, Amanda Campos still steals the show. Her wholesome lovesick Kate is sweet without an ounce of saccharin, and her saucy Lucy the Slut steams up the already hot room. But what really makes her performance a marvel is her unfaltering singing voice. Through a show where she takes part in nearly every number, her pipes ring over even the temptations of the Bad Idea Bears.

So when it comes to pessimistic puppets, save your Broadway time for something big and see Avenue Q on the small stage through July 26. It’s just as funny, and, no spoilers, but with a puppet attached to almost every onstage arm, you won’t be missing any huge dance numbers.

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