I have always been a huge fan of Avenue Q. In this era of incessant jukebox musicals and musicals derived from films, it’s so refreshing to see a completely original book, score and concept, and in this case it’s done so very well. Avenue Q is deliciously outrageous in all the right ways, and revels in the fact that if you have a bunch of cute puppets telling your story, you can get away with saying everything we all think but would never dream of saying out loud, and it makes it all the funnier for that fact. Having seen the show three times in the West End and knowing the score backwards, the show does not maintain its shock factor, but remains as funny as ever, with some really poignant moments and a great deal of belly laughs along the way.
This touring production, staged by Sell A Door Productions, loses nothing from the original production. The young, enthusiastic and hugely energetic cast are excellent and superb vocals and puppetry skills are on display in equal measure. I particularly enjoyed the performance of Stephen Arden as Trekkie Monster – a wonderful collection of facial expressions make for a brilliant portrayal of this disgustingly hilarious character, and vocally right on the money, and the same can be said for his Nicky and Bad Idea Bear. Stephen is an extremely endearing and versatile actor, and I thoroughly enjoyed watching his performance. Skilful vocals from Tom Steedon as Rod/Princeton, with his crystal clear tone and excitingly high range; and Lucie-Mae Sumner as Kate Monster/Lucy the Slut who maintains a characterful twang alongside a well-controlled belt, and a sufficiently slutty deep chesty tone for Lucy. Both actors are excellent puppeteers as well, and you quickly see the actor and the puppet as one and the same, as they are so characterfully expressed. These three actors have a tremendously complicated show, often voicing two characters at once, and providing voices for a character who is elsewhere on the stage, without missing a single eye-line or facial expression.
Strong performances from Jacqueline Tate as Christmas Eve, Ellena Vincent as Gary Coleman and Richard Morse as Brian complete a talented principal cast. A mention must go to Jessica Parker who, as ‘Left Arm’ is amazingly energetic in a difficult role, which requires her to characterise many puppets whom she does not voice, and she doesn’t miss a moment in her very complicated track, whilst giving a great Bad Idea Bear and Mrs T along the way.
The flawless 6-piece band is led by Grant Martin as Musical Director, who runs a tight ship on his collection of great musicians, hidden in this venue behind the set which is rather a shame.
The only area I’d say this production is possibly lacking is the set – for a show whose set is so simple in its design, this one is rather flimsy-looking and when doors are slammed, does a lot of waving about, which is the only element that makes this production look a little cheap. The suspension of disbelief is instantly broken when one sees a row of houses wobbling back and forth. The portrayal of the rooms inside the buildings is interesting, shown by rooms lit-up behind the windows, but again is a little disappointing when one has seen the West End production where the set opened up to show us the rooms inside.
I thoroughly enjoyed seeing Avenue Q live on stage again, and would strongly encourage old fans of the show and those who’ve never seen it to catch it during its last month on tour. Providing you’re not easily shocked or offended, you’re guaranteed to have a hilarious night out!
Review by Nikki Laurence
Avenue Q is produced by Sell a Door Theatre Company, formed in 2007 to create touring theatre aimed at teens and young adults with the ambition to attract young audiences and to excite them to the possibilities of theatre. Their recent productions include Seussical in the West End and the debut UK tour of Spring Awakening. It is co-produced by Richard Darbourne Ltd. www.selladoor.com
Music and Lyrics: Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx
Book: Jeff Whitty
Original Concept: Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx
Director: Cressida Carré
Choreographer: Cressida Carré
Set Design: Richard Evans
Lighting Design: Charlie Morgan Jones
Sound Design: Chris Bogg and DBS Solutions
Puppet Designed: Paul Jomain (www.Qpuppets.co.uk)
Orchestrations: Stephen Oremus
Arrangements: Stephen Oremus
Producers: Sell a Door Theatre Co and Richard Darbourne Ltd.
Running Time: 2hours 30 mins | Suitable for 14+
Tuesday 26th August 2014