FringeReview UK 2015
Winner of the Tony Awards ‘Triple Crown’ for Best Musical, Best Score and Best Book, Avenue Q is part flesh, part felt and packed with heart.
Following five years in the West End, sell-out runs worldwide and a smash hit tour in 2014 (packed with mischief, bad behaviour and political incorrectness) this hugely entertaining show is coming to Brighton Dome.
Created by Jeff Marx and Robert Lopez (Co-creator of Book of Mormon and writer of the songs for Disney’s Frozen) Avenue Q is an irresistibly charming musical which tells the story of the loveable characters on a downtown New York street trying to make sense of life’s burning issues.
Hilarious, cheeky and uproariously entertaining, with a terrific batch of songs performed by a cast of hugely talented performers and puppets, Avenue Q is a musical like no other.
The Broadway legend Avenue Q came to the Brighton Dome this week, bring its funny songs and crude humour to a city that can definitely cope with that sort of thing. Based on the lives of the inhabitants in a street in New York, the musical is an irreverent look at that group of ‘uncool’ New Yorkers whose trials and tribulations get overlooked most of the time on the TV and in films.
It is an interesting premise, mixing as it does the use of muppet-style puppets (though the programme is quick to point out it is in no way based on characters from Jim Henson’s muppet workshop or Sesame Street), who interact with human characters. The puppeteers are fully visible however, which works incredibly well, as they don’t distract in any way from the muppets, but instead provide the audience with the more nuanced facial expressions the puppets are unable to provide.
The device of mixing puppets with humans also allows for the the show to tackle the interesting element of race, where the ‘monsters’ are discriminated against, giving rise to one of the best songs in the show ‘Everyone’s a little bit racist’. This song is an example of the tone of the production that doesn’t shy away from courting controversial subjects, but always with a humorous take and a lot of tongue in cheek.
The first half of the show probably has a bit more oomph, with the best songs appearing, and the majority of the plot. The second half mostly feels like it’s tying up loose ends.
I saw the show many years ago in the West End, and this touring production doesn’t lose anything for its slightly smaller set. It takes a bit of getting used to the ‘musical theatre’ style of the piece as I am more used to fringe theatre offerings where depressed people analyse their childhood, but as soon as you get into the swing of it you can appreciate the talent of the performers both as singers and as puppeteers. There were stand out performances from Sarah Harlington, playing Kate Monster and Lucy the Slut, and also Richard Lowe, playing Princeton and Rod.
Avenue Q is a quirky and light-hearted musical that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and delivers a lot of laughs. I am glad that the Dome is starting to programme more comedy-theatre as it helps to diversify their programme and no doubt bring in new audiences to the venue.