Avenue Q Review

Civic Theatre, Darlington – 9 June 2015

There are obvious similarities between Avenue Q and another famous American Street that airs its programme to children.  Both shows give life lessons and have similar characters.  But whilst Avenue Q pays homage to the other, it is certainly not wholesome family entertainment.

Written by Jeff Marx and Robert Lopez (long before he penned Frozen), the residents of Avenue Q teach us that “there is a fine fine line between love and a waste of time”, “the more you love someone – the more you want to kill them”, “it sucks to be me”, “but only for now” and “The Internet is for Porn” (clearly its not or you wouldn’t be reading this review) and other nuggets of information and advice set to music.

It can seem a little confusing at first, with puppets controlled by actors on stage alongside three human characters. But once belief is suspended, a roller coaster of a show goes along at fair pace, with laughs aplenty.

The show centres on Princeton, an arts graduate and out of a job. Trying to find a cheap place to rent he finds Avenue Q a run down multicultural neighbourhood,  home to furry Kate Monster, who falls for Princeton; Brian and his Asian-American wife, Christmas Eve, who get married; former child star Gary Coleman; Rod who is in the closet yearning after straight room mate Nicky; Trekkie Monster a pervert who lusts after Lucy the Slut and the Bad Idea Bears

There are no weak links in this excellent cast. Puppets and humans are all steeped with fabulous comedy skills and bring  joy to the production. Richard Lowe, Sarah Harlington, Stephen Arden and Jessica Parker tackle the difficult role of giving life to their nine foam counterparts with ease, whilst Arina II (Christmas Eve), Richard Morse (Brian), and Etisyai Philip (Gary Coleman) provide human foils that are every bit as strong character wise.

It’s a technical masterpiece, with inspired staging, great voice work and incredible theatricality of the show’s small cast. The puppet actors dress in black, but there are no attempts made to disguise the fact that they are the voices behind the colourful characters. The expressions of the actors sell the puppet persona’s and make the show’s satirical but sentimental storyline so endearing.

If you are easily shocked then this is not the show for you.  Puppets having very loud, very physical sex is not a sight that everyone wants to see.  But if you want to have a good laugh and hear song lyrics that your life can relate to then this is the show to see.

In Darlington until Saturday 13 June and on tour around the UK