Avenue Q is one of those shows that unites audiences in laughter, smiles abound and whether you are young, old or somewhere in the middle, you walk out feeling good and in many cases wanting to go back for more.
For the uninitiated, if you’ve grown up on Sesame Street, graduated from university with a degree that doesn’t really get you anywhere and are financially challenged, chances are you will start out on Avenue Q. It’s a place to learn new life lessons, make friends and hopefully find your purpose in life.
Robert Lopez, Jeff Marx and Jeff Whitty have taken something that is familiar to us all through Sesame Street and the Muppets and blown it all apart, reassembled it with their own quirky take on life and infused the whole thing with love and laughter. They have found a balance between laughter with songs like If You Were Gay and Everyone’s A Little Bit Racist and emotion – There’s A Fine, Fine Line and in doing so created a little bit of musical theatre magic.
There really are no weak links in this terrific ensemble cast. Fuzzy cast members attached to humans and human cast members alike are infused with terrific comedic skills and bring such joy to this production that you just can’t find fault with them. Richard Lowe, Sarah Harlington, Stephen Arden and Jessica Parker tackle the difficult role of giving life to their nine foam counterparts with ease, whilst Arina II, Richard Morse, and Etisyai Philip provide human foils that are every bit as strong character wise. It would be easy for the puppets to take over and it’s a credit to this cast that the balance is maintained and the production benefits as a result. Behind the scenes Cleopatra Joseph, Douglas Walker, Michael Woolston-Thomas and Felicity Wright help to populate Avenue Q.
Director Cressida Carre corals this motely crew into a lively ensemble. Her take on Avenue Q draws on past productions whilst adding her own subtle touches resulting in an effortless and extremely rewarding night at the theatre. After a session of puppet nooky, your life may never be the same again. Musical Director Daniel Griffin keeps the show moving along with the help of five talented musicians whilst Richard Evans’ set provides a playground for puppets and humans alike which looks simple enough on first inspection but contains enough tricks and suprises to keep audiences wondering what’s next.
Allowing puppeteers to be completely visible was never going to be an easy staging option but thanks to puppet designer Paul Jomain and puppet coach Nigel Plaskit, the humans are allowed to work their magic bringing these incredible characters to life. How this cast doesn’t suffer from multiple personality disorder is beyond me!
Be warned though, looks can be misleading, there is enough adult content in the show that I wouldn’t recommend Avenue Q as suitable for younger audiences.
Now undertaking its 4th UK Tour, Avenue Q continues to be one of the funniest musicals onstage at the present time. Whether you are an Avenue Q newbie or if like me you have seen the show MANY times you would be a fool to miss this production. The full house standing ovation on the night I attended attested to the fact that audiences continue to love Avenue Q.