Zee Gaines (Sardines Magazine)first class singing
After more than ten years, Avenue Q is still delighting audiences with its cutting-edge humour and confrontation of everyday issues. This production is touring UK regional theatres, opening up its furry doors to new audiences. It features cute, colourful puppets, catchy songs, and memorable lyrics that are so close to real life, one wriggles in one’s seat with laughter and just a little bit of embarrassment.
Avenue Q tells the story of the residents in a colourful neighbourhood in downtown New York, trying to make their way in life, with hopes, dreams and good friends. The brilliant songs muse over perpetually relevant topics like racism, homosexuality and homelessness, with smart, sharp words and fluffy gaiety.
Princeton, is the fresh graduate wondering what he is going to be do with his English degree. In his search for his ‘purpose’ in life, he befriends Kate Monster, a kindergarten teaching assistant with high aspirations, jobless Brian and his Chinese wife, porn-loving Trekkie Monster and best friends Nicky and Rod the Republican. The puppets all have a Sesame Street quality, with extra dollops of realism. We care about their individual stories, and invest in their journey, with the help of excellent music, first class singing, human performance and skilful puppet manipulation.
The smaller venue of the Greenwich Theatre suits the in yer face audacity of the script and draws the audience into the street; when the characters all sing about how their life sucks, we are immediately pulled in and become one of them. Clever use of film on television screens positioned above the stage, add a further dimension to the entertainment.
The cast integrate seamlessly with the puppets, providing voice and legs, the latter of which the puppets don’t have, which serves to emphasise the actor, rather than disguise him; contrary to the director’s intention, but it actually works well, as the actors are an essential part of the character. Puppet designer Paul Jomain and his team have created a luscious ensemble of expressive puppets with huge emotive eyes and the ability to be manipulated to great effect; revealing anger, happiness, joy and masterfully recreating perhaps the steamiest sex scene ever witnessed on stage. No wonder the show is age rated.
Director Cressida Carre says the sometimes risqué humour is somehow less shocking when delivered by a cute furry monster. The audience often howl with laughter and nod their heads, in admittance of being “a little bit racist”. It’s easy to find yourself staring at the voluptuous Lucy the Slut, who is as seductive as Jessica Rabbit or Miss Piggy in that weird non-human way. The talented Lucie-Mae Sumner sings and operates Lucy with great skill, becoming one with her curly headed companion.
I’ve long been a fan of puppets, their skill, appeal and unique use; blend that with the power of theatre, the shock of the live performance, and this show represents the magnificent possibilities of this explosive combination.
Winner of three Tony Awards including Best musical, Best Score and Best Book, Avenue Q has that enduring appeal that shows like Greaseand The Rocky Horror Show enjoy, with audiences returning again and again, laughing louder and harder every time.
Avenue Q is witty, irreverent and thoroughly entertaining.
This touring production starts in Greenwich Theatre and will visit locations including Torquay, Crewe, Manchester, Leeds, Edinburgh, Blackpool, Sunderland, Croydon and Guildford. For further details visit