Avenue Q

Music and lyrics by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx, book by Jeff Whitty

A Theatre Royal Bath Production

New Victoria Theatre, Woking, and touring

(2011)

Review by Sheila Connor

Best New Musical, Best Book and Best Original Score - do I need to say more? This unlikely and irreverent show has been scooping awards from the moment it opened on Broadway in 2003. It arrived in London in June 2007 where, with a few moves and a short break ‘for the puppets’, it remained until October 2010. Now on a very extensive national tour there is no stopping it. Those puppets are going to be exhausted.

Having heard the show described as ‘puppets having sex’ my expectations were not high, but now I see what all the fuss is about and I’m bowled over too.

Rude (very), ireverent, seriously politically incorrect, and very very funny, but - and here’s a surprise - it’s also a journey through the minefield of young life and love and friendship, asking questions and sometimes finding some answers.

The show addresses all the issues that confront those setting out in the big wide world and trying to find their place - their ‘purpose’. Haven’t we all had that problem and have we ever really found it? It addresses racism, sex, homosexuality, porn, homelessness, rifts in friendship, money problems, immigration - in fact everything that life throws at us - and it does so with fun, laughter and terrific musical numbers. My one and only criticism is that sometimes the volume of the (otherwise excellent) band occasionally overshadows the lyrics, which are quite brilliantly conceived and need to be heard.

The puppeteers give no concessons to ventiloquism, manipulating their puppets and speaking and singing in unison with the same expressions and gestures, and I found that at the beginning I was following the person rather than their alter ego, but sometimes the puppets were swapped between performers which had the result of forcing concentration into the right place.

There are fine performances from the ‘humans‘. Matthew J Henry struts and swaggers as landlord Gary, Edward Judge is unemployed Brian and his Japanese immigrant girlfriend Christmas Eve is Jacqueline Tate whose powerful soprano soars in “The More you Ruv Someone” , but the main story is from the puppets. Kate Monster and Princeton are two young lovers manipulated by Rachel Jerram (bringing a sweet and vulnerable innocence to the kindergarten teacher) and Adam Pettigrew, confused in his desires and tempted to stray with the Miss Piggy lookalike Lucy the Slut - also performed by a now sexy Jerram. Pettigrew too has a dual role and his blue-faced Rod is also confused, this time by his sexuality which he strenuously denies before accepting that it’s OK to be gay.

Chris Thatcher’s Trekkie Monster is the rudest and funniest character, obsessed with using the internet for porn, but his investment in his favourite subject ‘the only stable investment’ eventually saves the day.

Slightly based on Sesame Street, but very much an adult version, the whole is played out before Anna Louizos’ set of a slightly run-down suburb of New York, with windows and doors frequently springing open to reveal more characters.

All the cast seem to be thoroughly enjoying their performances, which makes for a very happy show, which they reckon is passing on all they have learnt to the audience. I’m not sure the audience (mostly young) learnt anything, but they certainly enjoyed themselves.

Touring to Sheffield, High Wycombe, Southampton, Milton Keynes, Nottingham, Brighton, Cambridge, Birmingham, Bristol, Salford, Bradford, Cardiff, Belfast, Glasgow and Northampton.

David Chadderton reviewed this production in Salford