Avenue Q returns to the stage for a UK national tour starting on 25th January in Portsmouth and continuing through to its final date in Belfast in August.
Having won the Best Musical Tony Award after its initial opening on Broadway in 2003, Avenue Q came to the West End in 2006 where it ran for five years receiving the Lawrence Olivier Award for Best New Musical. Since that time there have been many world-wide tours of the show, including of the UK, and this latest promises to be a crazy puppet-led kaleidoscope of music, dance, jokes and satirical ditties as coming-of-age themes are explored by the “naughtiest puppets in town”. All indications from the Press Day are that the show will make you smile, it will make you laugh, it will make you think and above all, we are assured, it will make you fuzzy.
Sired by Sesame Street out of The Muppets, Avenue Q boasts 33 puppets in all, operated by four puppeteers with further characters making a cast of eleven in total. Puppet “Master” Nigel Plaskitt, who coaches the performers, explains that the puppets have to be light and easily maneuverable so that the actors can carry and operate them throughout the full two acts. They, therefore, do not have any mechanical parts and the material used is, well, mainly fuzzy (i.e. fluffy, hairy and endearing). Plaskitt, with a long pedigree in children’s TV, film and stage work, is the go-to puppet-man for any ambitious show of this nature and his attention to detail and affection for his lovable charges (designed by Paul Jomain) is plain for all to see. Focus, is the clue, he tells us: the visible performer-operators have to have exactly the same focus as their puppet characters whether they are talking, singing, walking or dancing. Director Cressida Carré confirmed that focus is all and once that is achieved then the cast and show can really take off.
I asked performers Cecily Redman and Lawrence Smith, how difficult this was – they were both new to the world of stage puppets. It was certainly a challenge they said but in the end, it is really just like learning another performance skill – a tricky dance routine, for example. Clearly excited and up for the challenge of this new tour, the two actors, and their fellow cast members are definitely going to take audiences by storm.
I cheekily asked them what they thought the puppets did when everyone had gone home and they were left on their own, back-stage: talk about the cast, they said, apparently quite seriously. They’d be discussing their faults and foibles, gossiping about their favourites and not-so favourites. And that, I think, sums up the nature of Avenue Q – the puppet characters do really take on the attributes of humans which is, ultimately, where the charm of the show lies. Alongside distributing fuzziness to the world, that is.
By Peter Yates
Following five years in the West End, sell-out runs worldwide and smash hit tours in 2014, 2015 and 2016 (packed with mischief, bad behaviour and political incorrectness!) Tony Award-winning Musical, created by Jeff Marx and Robert Lopez ,Co-creator of Book of Mormon and writer of the songs for Disney’s Frozen, is an irresistibly charming tale of the loveable characters on a downtown New York street trying to make sense of life’s burning issues.
Cast includes Megan Armstrong, Jasmine Beel, Ellis Dackombe, Chloe Gentles, Nicholas Mclean, Robbie Noonan, Saori Oda, Cecily Redman, Lawrence Smith, Oliver Stanley and Tom Steedon.
Meet Princeton, a bright-eyed graduate who comes to New York City with big dreams and a tiny bank account. Brian the out-of-work comedian and his therapist fiancée Christmas Eve; Nicky the good-hearted slacker and his closet gay Republican roommate Rod, an Internet ‘sexpert’ called Trekkie Monster, Lucy the Sl*t (the name says it all!) and a very cute kindergarten teacher named Kate Monster. Featuring hysterically funny songs including The Internet is for Porn and Everyone’s A Little Bit Racist, Avenue Q is a hilarious musical with a warm (and very fuzzy) heart.
Avenue Q is produced by Selladoor Worldwide (producers of Footloose, Little Shop of Horrors, Flashdance – The Musical and Fame – The Musical), Showtime Theatre Productions and in association with Richard Darbourne Limited – Avenue Q is directed and choreographed by Cressida Carré, designed by Richard Evans, Lighting Designed by Charlie Morgan Jones and Sound Designed by Chris Bogg. Puppets are designed by Paul Jomain of Q Puppets with Puppet Coaching by Nigel Plaskitt.
Hilarious, cheeky and uproariously entertaining, with a cast of 11 hugely talented performers and puppets, Avenue Q is the musical like no other.
So don’t let your life suck – book your tickets today! (Suitable for audiences 14+)
Listings – ATG Venues
5th Feb – 9th Feb 2019
New Wimbledon Theatre
12th Feb – 16th Feb 2019
Alexandra Theatre Birmingham
4th June – 8th June 2019
Theatre Royal Brighton
25th June – 29th June 2019
King’s Theatre Glasgow
10th July – 13th July 2019
22nd July – 27th July 2019
Aylesbury Waterside Theatre