When you first start to describe Avenue Q, it can be hard to explain the concept of seeing the actors on stage, but not really seeing them.
Revolutionary at its launch in 2002, the cast is dressed in black, and expertly puppeteers at least two characters each (sometimes voicing two characters on stage at the same time!) The actors very quickly start to blend into the set, as you focus only on the brightly coloured, Sesame Street style characters they’re manipulating.
That said, each cast member completely commits to the role, providing the facial expressions that static puppets can’t offer – It’s absolute poetry in motion, requiring a degree of co-ordination I could only dream of!
It’s the songs in Avenue Q that left tears rolling down our faces. A sucker for a clever lyric, I was in stitches during songs like ‘Everyone’s A Little Bit Racist’, ‘If You Were Gay’ and ‘Schadenfreude’ – a tribute to the act of finding joy in the misfortune of others.
But it’s no surprise that these catchy melodies strike such a chord when you discover one of Avenue Q’s co-creators, Bobby Lopez, is one half of the musical team that wrote the songs for Disney’s Frozen and Coco, as well as controversial Broadway hit The Book of Mormon.
Alongside the shocking lyrics and funny observations though, are gorgeous ballads like ‘There’s A Fine, Fine Line’ and ‘Fantasies Come True’ making the soundtrack a well-rounded musical theatre masterpiece that shouldn’t just be noted for churning out the funny.
This latest UK tour of Avenue Q boasts a phenomenal cast, with notable performances from Cecily Redman as Kate Monster and Lucy the Slut. Her rendition of ‘There’s A Fine, Fine Line’ was alone deserving of a standing ovation.
Lawrence Smith fabulously flipped between the lead character, Princeton and closeted gay accountant Rod, with an innocent energy that made the audience instantly love both characters.
Other standout moments were Tom Steedon as Trekkie Monster as he explains to the audience exactly what the internet was created for; and Saori Oda with her strong, empowered and downright hilarious portrayal of Christmas Eve.
While it would be very easy to be offended by the themes and content covered in Avenue Q, its light-hearted approach to covering taboo topics, especially through the use of such adorable puppets, makes it feel okay to have a giggle.
Covering themes including racism, one-night stands, anxiety, drunkenness and internet porn, it’s an important reflection on life that I think would appeal to people who don’t necessarily love traditional musical theatre.
But I still probably wouldn’t take my Mum…
By Melissa Hamblett
Thursday 18 April 2019
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