UNC Pauper Players’ “Avenue Q” combined two opposing elements — innocent-looking puppets and vulgar, crude humor — to teach audience members that the internet is only for porn.
The show, which sold out both Friday and Saturday, used “Avenue Q’s” witty numbers, strong vocals and a simple set to aggrandize and critique coming-of-age issues, including relationships and the purpose of life.
The production follows a few “Sesame Street”-style characters as they try to find out what their life goals are post-college, while also making jokes about racism and religion.Saturday’s show opened with a projected screen, depicting Avenue Q, a fictional street in New York City, as the opening number began. It seemed strange not to open immediately with the use of performers, but they soon entered with exaggerated character voices that introduced the endearing, but critical tone of the rest of the show.
All of the characters’ voices were very distinct, clear and obviously different than the performers’ respective speaking voices. Lochlan Belford, who narrated both Trekkie Monster and one of the Bad Idea Bears, showed his versatility by keeping Trekkie’s voice deep and throaty, while the Bad Idea Bear’s voice was high-pitched and almost annoying.
Both Kyle Conroy, who narrated Princeton, and Brooke Wilson,who narrated Kate Monster, remained consistent in their character voices but also in their Broadway-worthy vocal performances. Conroy and Wilson also delivered the most coordinated puppet sex scene in what looked like a very confined space during, “Loud as the Hell You Want.”
Though the production critiqued most issues through humor, it also successfully drew attention to more serious issues, such as Rod’s struggle with coming out as homosexual. Will Hawkins not only projected the character’s emotion through his voice — which could go from quiet and endearing to a high-pitched, laughter-inducing scream — but also used his facial expressions so that he and the puppet he controlled blended seamlessly as one character.
Blayne Telling, who narrated Lucy the Slut, added a dose of harlot humor with seductive movements and a low, sultry, one-night-stand worthy voice. Her singing voice was equally as velvety, but at times a little hard to understand when combined with music from the live band. Other performers’ voices also struggled to compete with the band, but not often enough to take away from the content of the show.
Of all the performers with one-liners, Annie Keller, who portrayed a Japanese woman named Christmas Eve, stole the show. Her perfectly offensive character voice, combined with her matter-of-fact mannerisms, made her dialogue highly anticipated. Keller’s singing voice showed an impressive range and clarity.
“Avenue Q” delivered a fresh, light-hearted take on serious issues with professional-quality vocal performances, despite very sweaty puppeteering arms.