Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Theatre review: Avenue Q (UK tour)



©Matt Martin Photography

Almost a year ago to the day I had the profound pleasure of discovering the joy that is Avenue Q when I reviewed it for Woman's World. I saw the show on press night in Greenwich and loved it so much that when it returned to London, Wimbledon this time around, I booked myself a ticket to see it again. So you can imagine how excited I was when I first heard the news that the tour would come back this year, and would once more play my favourite London fringe venue; Greenwich Theatre.

Admittedly when I initially saw that there would be cast changes for the tour I felt disappointed as the two leads that left, Lucie-Mae Sumner (Kate Monster/Lucy the Slut) and Tom Steedon (protagonist Princeton/Rod), made my previous viewings of this show so very special. Thankfully my other favourite, Stephen Arden (Nicky/Trekkie), was still a firm part of the musical and newcomers Sarah Harlington and Richard Lowe brought a breath of fresh air to it.

I was particularly stoked to see Richard in one of the leads as I loved his performance in the West End run of Loserville and while I have also caught him in The Light Princess at the National Theatre, it was brilliant to see him, deservingly, take centre-stage once more. He was already fantastic in his West End debut several years ago and he has only become even more impressive since. 

The Tony Award-winning show tells the story of recent graduate Princeton (Lowe) who feels a little disillusioned as he tries to find his purpose in life. With a degree in his pocket but no job to go with it, he can only afford to rent a place all the way down Avenue Q and that is where he meets our merry band of characters. A mixture of puppets and humans creates an ingenious and fun display and one that could almost be mistaken for the cheery innocence of Sesame Street, were it not for the fact that the musical is filled with profanity, adult themes and a character obsessed with porn.

It sounds mental, particularly when you add in wacky though oh so catchy tunes by the hand of Jeff Marx and Bobby Lopez (Frozen, Book of Mormon), which have titles such as If You Were Gay (That'd Be Okay), You Can Be as Loud as the Hell You Want (When You're Makin' Love) and Everyone's a Little Bit Racist. But the charmingly honest and surprisingly realistic (considering half the cast are puppets) book by Jeff Whitty makes it work, aided by a fantastic direction from Cressida Carre and a delightful set design by Richard Evans (slightly updated from last year's tour).

I've been a massive fan of Sell a Door ever since I caught their beautiful and haunting production of Spring Awakening (also at Greenwich Theatre) and with both Avenue Q tours they have shown once more what a fantastic and inspiring company they are. This year they're also touring The History Boys and bringing American Idiot to the West End, so there's a lot of exciting theatre to look forward to from Sell a Door in 2015. I, for one, will be penning the dates into my diary as soon as I have hit 'publish' on this review.



Avenue Q is running at Greenwich Theatre until 24 May 2015. You can buy tickets here. After that it will be touring the UK again, including a return to New Wimbledon Theatre next year.

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