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Monday, 10 August 2015

Avenue Q Review

The Puppets are back in town for another UK Tour of Avenue Q!

Join Princeton, a recent graduate with a BA in English but no life experience, no job or money on his journey to find his life's purpose. But let's not sugar-coat this too much. This is no ordinary coming-of-age story. A musical that takes Sesame Street to a whole new level with puppets getting graphically 'jiggy' with it on stage and much more crude 'adult content' both in action and score with forthright songs including The Internet is for Porn, Everyone's a Little Bit Racist and If You were Gay.
The style stays faithful to that beloved American show with child-star cameo role 'Gary Coleman', animated sections: their own intro, alphabetic/words, a chorus of children shouting out different types of job and over-enthusiastic songs with a not-so-innocent charm.


The puppets masterfully created by Paul Jobain allow the puppeteers to be in full view. And it works! A great way to show off the great talents of all the cast who worked together to manipulate different puppets while throwing their voices on to others. I particularly liked the similarity of Kate Monster and her puppeteer Sarah Harlington reinforcing the puppet's personality and look. Each puppet had a back story and characterisation often skillfully performed by multiple actors. Harlington gave a charming performance as Kate Monster with her signature shy hair flick and a feisty attitude in her song There's a Fine Fine Line equally her character performance of Lucy The Slut was well contrasted both in voice and puppet manipulation with a slinky walk when entering and exiting the stage. Stephen Arden gave a stand-out performance with his comedic talents presented with great confidence as Nicky, Trekkie Monster (and my favourite) a Bad Idea Bear. Michael Woolston-Thomas stood in as Princeton and Rod and although possibly a little shaky in confidence at the start soon came into his own as a perky Princeton and urbane, repressed Rod. The 'human' counterparts in the musical were as strong as the puppeteers. Arina II as a delightful Christmas Eve who was at times gutsy towards her husband Brian. Brian (played by Richard Morse) was bouncy- in every way! He was jolly, making light of the angst of life and Etisyai Philip as a spunky Gary Coleman.  All worked confidently in their characterisations making it clear they were responding to the puppets as opposed to the actors reminiscent of Sesame Street. Ensemble included Cleopatra Joseph, Felicity Wright and Douglas Walker who supported the actors and all performed enthusiastically on stage as different residents of Avenue Q.

Richard Evans’ set is simple with house fronts but versatile showing the different rooms with a drop-down shelf-like mechanism creating a dollshouse appearance so that the real action and energetic dance choreography is not compromised. Charles Morgan-Jones' lighting helped to give the Avenue a down and out atmospheric feel.

Jeff Marx and Robert Lopez' musical score is perfectly written and was enthusiastically performed by musical director Daniel Griffiths and his band with patter-songs, love ballads, duets, great chorus numbers and comical solo parts. There is really something for everyone but perhaps not your genteel grandparent...

So #Grab You Dick and Double Click# for tickets in venues across the UK until May 2016.