Music &Lyrics: Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx
Book: Jeff Whitty
Director: Cressida Carré
Reviewer: John Roberts
After its closure in the West End and first UK Tour, young producers David Hutchinson and Philip Rowntree of Sell A Door Theatre Company managed to secure the UK rights to Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx’s Muppet musical satire Avenue Q. The show may be now into its troublesome teens (the first production was in New York in February 2003) but it’s showing no signs of ageing. In fact, Avenue Q manages to stand the test of time pretty well especially with all the political madness going on around the world at the moment (it’s even referenced in the lyric change during For Now).
Princeton is fresh from graduating from University and still with his BA (Hons) in English scroll in his hand, he heads off to find his purpose in the Big Apple – struggling to find anywhere within his budget he lands upon Avenue Q, where he starts to find what his purpose in life really is and just how important friendship really is.
Cressida Carré’s production is filled with plenty of pace and energy and she manages to find new layers within the stereotypical characters that previous productions have failed to find – yes she may push the lewd elements of the show to the top end of the scale at times, but when the characters are as she says in the programme notes “cute furry monsters” it’s hard to find offense… after all Avenue Q is satire, it plays on all the social stigma’s, it makes fun of them and asks us through laughing to find where we can improve ourselves. Yes, there were walkouts throughout the show, but one would argue that has more to do with their own prejudices than those explored in this melodic musical.
Richard Lowe as the lovable Princeton and tight Republican Rod excels in the duel role with charm and really pulls out all the stops in bringing the furry clad puppets to life, he shares excellent chemistry with Sarah Harlington as Kate Monster/Lucy the Slut – in fact she gained extra approval from this reviewer’s 14 years old niece, who exclaimed she was “Excellent!” (high praise indeed – trust me, I know my niece!) Excellent support comes from Richard Morse as the larger than life unemployed Brian and Arina II as his Asian-American fiancée, Christmas Eve. Etisyai Philip is a ball of energy as Gary Coleman, although one does wonder how long this character can justifiably stay in the show without being replaced– many of the audience in tonight would never have heard of him. It is however down to Stephen Arden as Trekkie Monster and lovable Nicky who steals the show, managing to wring every ounce of comic potential from the characters.
Musical Director Dean McDermot conducts a rich sounding six-piece pit band, however at times the sound balance means occasionally some lyrics are lost in the mix, which is a real shame, especially when songs such as: The Internet is For Porn; Fine, Fine Line; Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist and I Wish I Could Go Back to College are so well written and executed.
Avenue Q is a laugh-out-loud musical that asks you to leave your prejudices at the door, sit back, relax and join the residents of this friendly if not slightly bizarre street, you will be thankful when you do.
Runs until 27 February 2016 | Photo: Matt Martin