Reviewed by Jayne Knight
The story is of individuals who live within three properties, which have been turned into apartments, on Avenue Q in New York. As with any inner-city accommodation the residents vary in many different ways.
We join them as newcomer, Princeton, investigates his purpose in life, having just left university with a BA in English. He meets Kate Monster and the other residents, who all have their own quirky ways and foibles, who then begin to consider their own purpose.
The cast is a mix of puppet monsters and actors, one of whom is based on child actor Gary Coleman (Arnold Jackson in Diff’rent Strokes), played by Nicholas McLean who brought his own particular style to the stage.
A world in which people can live along-side monsters harmoniously seems highly improbable, but with clever direction and the expertise of the puppeteers it is easy to step into that world.
It is a world that explores many subjects that are politically incorrect, but the creators, Jeff Marx and Bobby Lopez, realised ‘that to make the material palatable to an audience it was best to ‘filter’ it through cute and friendly looking puppets’ (think Muppets).
The extremely adult themes running through the show, such as racism, anxiety, drunkenness, internet porn and gay love are just the tip of the iceberg so here I have to offer a note of caution – if you are easily offended this production is not for you.
Megan Armstrong, Cecily Redman, Lawrence Smith and Tom Steedon all excel in puppetry, whilst being accomplished singers and actors. It is their intonation and actions that give the puppets their own persona. Although always visible on stage they do not detract from the fact that the script is for the individual puppets character. Each of these people is responsible for more than one puppet, so having to interchange between personas sometimes within seconds is no mean feat.
For Megan and Tom life becomes more complicated as they have to work in unison with Trekkie Monster. The synchronicity of their movements is as perfect as any dance routine. Further, they team up as the mischievous ‘bad bears’ – those voices inside your head arguing against reason.
Christmas Eve (Saori Oda) brings an over enthusiastic Japanese therapist into the mix, whilst her fiancé, Brian, (Oliver Stanley) came across as an unlikely pairing with dud jokes, but in the diversity of life they embark on a journey that you hope will blossom.
The show is fast paced with a message of hope running throughout. The content causes regular hilarity as one or other character says or does something inappropriate, helped along by songs with titles such as ‘The Internet is for Porn’ or, ‘Everyone’s a little bit racist.’
A faultless performance that was well received by the first night audience.
Parking is easy with a secure NCP park to the rear of the theatre (New Street). Parking for the evening cost £10. However, if you don’t mind a walk of approx. 6-8 mins then use the Arcardia (no barrier) car park near the Hippodrome theatre, where you can purchase a reduced-price ticket for £7, after 5pm.
Tickets cost from £15.90 (booking fees may apply).
Avenue Q is at The Alexandra Theatre in Birmingham from 12-16 February 2019, for more information or to book tickets visit www.atgtickets.com/birmingham or call the box office on 0844 871 3011.
The Alexandra Theatre, Suffolk Queensway, Birmingham, West Midlands, B5 4DS