Friday, 2 May 2014

Theatre review: Avenue Q (UK tour)


Synopsis: Avenue Q is a laugh-out-loud musical that tells the story of a recent college graduate named Princeton who moves into a shabby New York apartment all the way out on Avenue Q.

There, he meets Kate (the girl next door), Rod (the Republican), Trekkie (the internet sexpert), Lucy the Slut and other colorful types who help Pprinceton finally discover his true purpose in life.

From the producers of Seussical (West End), Spring Awakening (Debut UK Tour) and Lord of the Flies (UK Tour) Sell a Door Theatre Company revive this critically acclaimed musical at their London home the Greenwich Theatre before embarking on a 12 Week UK Tour.


Rating:

Profanity-prone puppets tour the UK


Photo credit: Darren Bell

A decade ago Avenue Q made a splash on Broadway as a controversial new musical and a few years down the line a tamed-down version opened in the West End. Nearly five years after the show closed in London, the rest of the UK finally has the opportunity to witness this Sesame Street for grown-ups as a new production is gearing up to tour Britain.

The story chronicles the lives of the residents of Avenue Q, a rather run-down street in New York City, as they fall in and out of love and friendship, all on the road to finding a purpose in life. Where it may get tricky perhaps, is that not all characters are people quite like we know them; in the world of Avenue Q puppets live side-by-side with humans and while this may sound strange at first, the clever staging soon makes the audience forget that this is out of the ordinary.

Despite the colourful and rather adorable puppets that grace the stage, this is anything but a family show. The characters - puppets and humans alike - are prone to sprouting profanities and engaging in explicit sexual activities, and with songs such as 'The Internet is for Porn' and 'Everyone's a Little Bit Racist' it is safe to say that the lyrics are on the controversial side too.


Photo credit: Darren Bell

The show's music is penned by Robert Lopez (co-creator of Olivier-winning musical The Book of Mormon and a recipient of an Oscar for his songwriting for Disney's Frozen) and Jeff Marx and they have created a real musical treat. Though the songs start to sound a bit repetitive after a while, each and every one of them is immensely catchy and we found ourselves humming the tunes long after seeing the show.

The real strength of this production however, doesn't lie with the book or music, but with the immensely talented cast on stage - especially those that have the difficult task of turning the inanimate cartoonish puppets into three-dimensional characters that speak to the audience. They do so beautifully and it is a lot of fun watching the cast not only voicing the puppets, but truly bringing them to life.

I was particularly impressed by Lucie-Mae Sumner (Kate Monster and Lucy the Slut) and Stephen Arden (Trekkie Monster and Nicky), who were outstanding in their respective roles. Lucie-Mae seamlessly transformed from sweet Kate into sensual Lucy in the blink of an eye, even performing scenes where the two characters were interacting with each other, making for an awe-inspiring experience.

Other than minor technical issues, there were some missed light and sound cues on press night, this is a solid production. The joyful book, hummable tunes and the immense talent on stage make for a hugely entertaining musical, which will no doubt appeal to audiences across the UK. Perhaps not to those of all ages though and I wouldn't recommend it for under 16s, but it makes a perfect night out with your other half or a group of friends.


Photo credit: Darren Bell

Avenue Q will be playing in Greenwich until the 11th of May after which the tour will make its way to Torquay, Crewe, Londonderry, Manchester, Leeds, Bracknell, Edinburgh, Inverness, Buxton, High Wycombe, Crawley, Blackpool, Poole, Lincoln, Sunderland, Winchester, St. Helen's, Lichfield, Croydon, Guilford, Oxford, Birmingham and returning to London by way of Wimbledon at the end of August.


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