Douglas Mayo reviews the 2019 UK tour of Avenue Q at the New Wimbledon Theatre.
One visit to Avenue Q is NEVER enough! I speak from experience here as this visit marks my sixty somethingth visit to this wonderful neighbourhood and it never gets old. In fact, I can safely say that Avenue Q is my happy place. You know, that place where you can escape the world, smile, laugh, laugh some more and learn a few life lessons along the way.
From the minds of Jeff Marx, Robert Lopez and Jeff Whitty comes this wonderful take on life after Sesame Street. It’s bold, cheeky, rude, irreverent, heart-warming but ultimately very funny. Compressing those special life lessons untouched the aforementioned Sesame Street is a large part of Avenue Q’s very special charm. In a series of songs, the audience learns that Everyone’s A Little Bit Racist, The Internet Is For Porn, If You Were Gay.., and You Can Be As Loud As The Hell You Want When You’re Making Love amongst others.
Director/ Choreographer Cressida Carre really gets the Q mentality and understands that underneath the hilarity is real heart and truth. You can see a little bit of yourself in most of the inhabitants of Avenue Q, you just have to look. Carre keeps the pace and flow of the show going at a brisk pace, laugh for too long and you’re likely to miss something.
The inhabitants of Avenue Q are made up of three humans and a number of puppets who are bought to life by four enablers. Nothing is hidden. Audiences get to see exactly how the magic happens, the beauty of Avenue Q is that you soon forget the enablers and focus entirely on the characters attached to their arms and that’s a tribute to Nigel Plaskit and the skill of this cast.
Lawrence Smith is superb as Princeton and Rod. It takes a certain talent to convey a character as tightly wound as Rod, but Smith plays it with ease. I enjoyed watching the contrast between Cecily Redman’s girl-next-door take on Kate Monster to the brashness of Lucy The Slut. There’s A Fine, Fine Line has never sounded better, but watching her switch characters on stage seemed so natural that you hope she’s not bound for the psychiatrist’s office at the end of this tour, the mischievious Bad Idea bears are back thanks to Tom Steedon and Megan Armstrong and remain an audience favourite,but when Steedon and Armstrong join forces to bring Trekkie Monster and Nicky to life you get a real glimpse of the magic of Avenue Q. The artistry these two employ is magical and made even more special by Steedon’s immaculate comic timing. Sometimes all you have to do for a laugh is to wait and Steedon understands this.
As for the human inhabitants of Avenue Q Nicholas McLean is one of the best Gary Coleman’s I’ve seen. Saori Oda and Oliver Stanley make a wonderful double act as Christmas Eve and Brian, quirky, loving and believable you just can’t help but love them.
Of course behind the scenes are a few “helpers” and Jasmine Beel, Elis Dackombe, Chloe Gentles and Robbie Noonan ensure that some of the shenanigans on the Avenue go off without a hitch.
It was great on this occasion to see Dean McDermott and his small but vital band of musicians in the pit. Making a show like this play in a huge theatre like the New Wimbledon takes incredible skill not only from the performers but with the help of Christopher Bogg’s sound design this band have a great big, rich sound.
It’s great to see that Avenue Q remains as fresh and vibrant as it was with my first visit and that there are still so many people in the audience who are visiting the Avenue for the first time. As I said, the show never gets old, you can always be assured of walking out smiling and laughing and that’s an invaluable restorative in the current climate.
My ribs are still aching from laughing so much!