2nd July 2015
We all have an inner child, that little voice inside us that yearns to get away from the chaos of modern life and retreat back into the safety of childhood. Avenue Q draws on the idea of combining children's favourites Sesame Street and The Muppets and throws in a bit of Friends for good measure (of course the show is not based on or endorsed by any production.) Despite it's charming and cuddly appearance, this show is certainly not for kids. It's probably best enjoyed by those thirty-somethings who are going through a personal crisis; struggling to find their way in the world after collage with the challenges of jobs, mortgage, relationships and generally trying not to appear like a failure. Many of the jokes will definitely appeal to that age range and will be painfully close to home at times, but it's always hilarious no matter what the subject.
The plot revolves around a group of friends on Avenue Q, a run down, cheap part of town. Brian and his Japanese fiancé, Christmas Eve are the token 'humans' without puppets, teaching assistant Kate Monster, layabout Nicky, the illusive Trekkie Monster go about their lives until Newbies, Princeton and in the closet Rod show up. The street is overseen by supervisor Gary Coleman - a character based on the late child star but also to confuse matters played brilliantly by a woman (Etisyai Philip.) Princeton and Kate share an on off romance while he struggles to find his purpose and attempts to fend off his attraction to Nightclub singer Lucy The Slut. Rob struggles with his sexuality and his unrequited crush on Nicky and Kate dreams of opening a school for monsters. Oh and then there's the Bad Idea Bears whose sole purpose is to create mischief. The songs range from the comical It Sucks To Be Me, and The Internet Is For Porn to the tragic There's A Fine Fine Line and then there's the awkwardly funny puppet sex scene (think of that scene from Team America but funnier and in song!) The story itself may be a bit weak, but it's the universal truths, humour and moral messages throughout the show that stand out.
The performances are outstanding. It's easy to forget that there are real people attached to the puppets. One of the cleverest things about the show is that the majority of the actors play two or more parts with ensemble taking over the animation when the characters appear on stage together. Due to the clever and seamless direction you hardly notice that a change has taken place. Sarah Harlington who plays both Kate and Lucy is hugely versatile and her character transitions are hilarious. To be honest, to single out a single performer would be unfair Richard Lowe (Princeton/Rod) and Stephen Arden ( Nicky/Trekkie/ Bad Idea Bear) and the rest of the cast are superb in their ability to switch between characters, in the same way that Dan Castellaneta and Harry Shearer do in The Simpsons.
Avenue Q may not be for kids, but it's the perfect show to bring out your inner monster.