Review: The Avenue Q 15th Anniversary Reunion Concert at Feinstein’s/54 Below

Original cast members of Avenue Q at Feinstein's/54 Below

By Jonathan Spira on 31 July 2018
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Fifteen years ago, theatergoers met Princeton, Rod, Kate Monster, Brian, Christmas Eve, and a rather down-and-out Gary Coleman as the hit musical “Avenue Q” took the world by storm.

In this coming-of-age parable, Princeton wonders out loud, “What do you do, with a B.A. in English?” as he searched for his purpose, while he and his friends on Avenue Q experience and try to conquer the anxieties of becoming adults.

On Monday night, the original Broadway cast including John Tartaglia (Princeton and Rod), Stephanie D’Abruzzo (Kate Monster and Lucy the Slut), Jordan Gelber (Brian), Rick Lyon (Trekkie Monster and Nicky), and Jen Barnhart (Mrs. Thistletwat and the female Bad Ideas Bear) along with Carmen Ruby Floyd (the original understudy for the role of Gary Coleman) and Erin Quill (the original understudy for Christmas Eve) and members of the current cast celebrated the show’s 15th anniversary with a spectacular concert in a basement secreted below Studio 54, once New York City’s most infamous nightclub.

John Tartaglia and Princeton

John Tartaglia and Princeton

That basement is Feinstein’s/54 Below, a supper club and cabaret that recalls the look and glamour of such establishments in the 1940s, where guests enjoyed a night out, dinner and perhaps dancing, and a floor show. It is operated in partnership with singer and pianist Michael Feinstein and features a variety of shows from musical theater to opera and even the risqué.

The supper club experience starts at the entrance, where one is greeted by the maître d’ once the doors open. Once settled, a waiter takes the order from the dinner and drink menu.

We started with an excellent guacamole with plantain chips and an extremely satisfying macaroni and cheese appetizer  that turned out to be enough for the evening although the hanger steak we saw being served looked enticing. I ordered the signature cocktail, 54 Below Manhattan (McKenzie Rye, Dolin Rouge Vermouth, Grand Marnier, Angostura Bitters), from the extensive cocktail list, and my co-critic, Blaise Buckley, had the SpongeBob (Milagros Silver Tequila, Pomegranate Juice, Fresh Lime Juice, Angostura Bitters).

John Tartaglia served as emcee and the reunion began with the original cast members performing the Avenue Q Theme followed by “What Do You Do With a B.A. in English?” and “It Sucks to Be Me.” As the evening continued, the audience was treated to songs that (possibly for good reason) were cut from the show as well as a puppet (the original Trekkie Monster, who was an obsessive Star Trek fan whose costume originally was a Star Trek-like tunic.

The evening continued with alternate versions of songs as well as updated versions of songs (in “It Sucks to Be Me,” Brian sang he was turning 43, not 33), and touching behind-the-scenes stories of how the show came about.

“Avenue Q” opened Off-Broadway in March 2003 at the Vineyard Theatre and transferred to Broadway and the John Golden Theatre four months later. It won three Tony Awards including Best Musical and remained on Broadway until 2009 when it moved to New World Stages where it continues to be performed today.

You might not be able to go back to college, but you certainly can go back to the New World Stages and see “Avenue Q” in all its glory.

THE DETAILS

Avenue Q 15th Anniversary Reunion Concert
Feinstein’s/54 Below
254 West 54 Street
Cellar Level
New York, N.Y. 10019
www.54below.com

(Photos: Accura Media Group)

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