Like an after-hours episode of Sesame Street or late-night Muppets, Avenue Q is the polar opposite of most mainstream musicals. Cheeky, rude and risqué, this production delights the audience from start to finish.
Following the lives of a strange bunch of characters living on run-down Avenue Q, the story focuses on friendship, love and doing nice things for each other. It’s a simple enough tale brought to life by some fancy puppetry, memorable and delightful songs and colourful storytelling.
While the puppets grab the headlines and are what set Avenue Q aside from rival productions, it is in-fact the performers themselves who shine most. After a few minutes you are bowled over by their energy; rarely taking a moment off stage or to breathe. In fact, any moment lead Richard Lowe (Princeton and Rod) does leave the stage is to grab the next puppet!
The pace is electrifying throughout and while the staging and footwork is simple and neat, the story is presented boldly through stand out songs such as “If you were gay”, “It Sucks to be me”, “Purpose” and crowd-favourite “The Internet is for Porn”.
The success of this production is down to the skilful ensemble work by all the characters. The leads weave in and out of their puppets, some adapting 2 roles at once, while never losing character or sight of the story.
Stephen Arden was a firm favourite as pervert-cum-hero Trekkie Monster and brought a child-like quality to his Bad Idea Bear, working wonderfully with Jessica Parker. Arina II was loveable as caring and ditzy Christmas Eve and Etisyai Phillip led the audience to applause as Gary Coleman.
Sarah Harlington (Kate Monster) and Richard Lowe were excellent throughout as the love interest of the show with Princeton proving to be the unlikely Prince Charming. Pitch perfect vocals, wonderful interchange between characters and strong physical skills meant you couldn’t take your eyes off the pair of them!
At times the show felt a little long, and shaving 15 minutes off would make this a truly amazing production. However, quarter of an hour cannot detract from some wonderful songs, strong physical performances and a reminder of the power of musical theatre when it shows rather than tells.
Review by Andy Edmeads