Puppets Come to Life in Avenue Q at Skokie Theatre

The entire cast – Back row: Heidi Hansfield, Rami Halabi, Natalie Rae, Sabrina Edwards, and Dennis Schnell. Front row: Zach Moore and Shea Lee. Photo by MadKap Productions.
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The puppet stars. Photo by MadKap Productions.

Tackling adult themes about life, growing up, and finding your place, The Broadway Hit Avenue Q is playing now through August 7 at the Skokie Theatre in Skokie. This Tony-award winning musical features both puppets and human actors by a group of incredibly talented performers who must do double-duty throughout the performance.

The show won Best Musical, Book, and Score at the 2004 Tony Awards and continues to delight new audiences across the country. Produced by Wendy Kaplan of MadKap Productions, the show has music and lyrics by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx with a book by Jeff Whitty.

Inspired by some of the characters from the popular kids’ show, Sesame Street, Avenue Q is a musical comedy that is anything but a kid’s show. Rated R, Avenue Q deals with adult-oriented themes like racism, sexuality, and pornography with offensive language, and an onstage portrayal of puppet sex.

The hilarious Avenue Q tells the timeless story of a recent college graduate trying to find his way in the world. Set in New York City all the way out on Avenue Q (the only place with affordable rent), audiences meet fresh-faced Princeton as he struggles to find his purpose. Searching for the American dream, it’s as relevant today as it was back then.

The outstanding cast stars Sabrina Edwards, Rami Halabi, Heidi Hansfield, Shea Lee, Zach Moore, Natalie Rae, and Dennis Schnell. Some performers play human characters, while others manage the puppets; performing dialog and singing, all at the same time. That’s a tall order, indeed and the actors do it seamlessly.

Sabrina Edwards and Rami Halabi. Photo by Madkap Productions.

Standouts include Shea Lee as “Christmas Eve” whose tiny frame carries a huge voice and Natalie Rae, who has two parts to play, belting it out loud and proud. Kudos also to Rami Halabi who gives an enthusiastic portrayal of three different puppets and Sabrina Edwards who plays down-on-his-luck actor Gary Coleman, reduced to being the building “super” when his parents run off with all of his money. Sabrina sings, moves and dances her way into our hearts.

The puppets are right. College is a whole lot easier than majoring in life!

The show is produced by Wendy Kaplan, and directed and choreographed by Ty Perry, whose Chicago work has received accolades from the Jefferson committee. Musical direction is by Aaron Kaplan with set design by Molly Cornell, lighting design by John Holmes, and costume design by David Lundholm.

Avenue Q is the first show in MadKap Productions 2022-23 subscription series. Coming up next is “Falling for Make Believe,” September 9 – October 16; “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” from November 4 – 20, “Book of Merman” from February 3 – 26, 2023 and “Rumors” from March 31 – April 23, 2023. A five-show package is available for $145, which includes one ticket to all five shows, plus a sixth ticket to bring a guest to one performance.

Skokie Theatre is located at 7924 Lincoln Ave in downtown Skokie. Tickets are $45 general admission, $38 for seniors and students and can be purchased online at SkokieTheatre.org or by calling 847-677-7761. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm and Sundays at 2:00 pm. Masks are required at all performances.

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