“brilliant, naughty and outrageously funny”
Other than previously hearing a few songs from the soundtrack, and knowing that the show was “sesame street for adults”, I knew nothing about Avenue Q, so essentially went in blind to see it.
I left the theatre with a huge smile on my face and tears nearly running down my cheeks as I thoroughly enjoyed this brilliant, naughty and outrageously funny show.
The plot mainly follows our principle character, Princeton, as he moves to Avenue Q with a BA in English in search of his purpose in life. Along the way he meets and makes friends with Kate Monster, Christmas Eve, Brian, Rod, Nicky and Trekkie Monster, and we follow their journey together.
The plot, were it not for the puppets, is a very cheesy, tongue in cheek one, but the addition of the puppets, adult humour and the Bad Idea bears makes it the classic show that so many have seen and loved.
Playing both Princeton and refusing-to-come-out-the-closet Rod was Lawrence Smith, who was utterly brilliant in every way. It took me a while to realise he was playing both roles, as he managed to portray both roles physically and vocally different to one another. Similarly, Cecily Redman played both Kate Monster and Lucy The Slut, in such ways that the characters were very easily defined differently.
Redman definitely improved as time went on during the show, as during the opening number I wasn’t sure if her mic kept cutting out or she was faltering, but by the end of the show, and especially during her solo There’s A Fine, Fine Line, you couldn’t fault her.
Tom Steedon as Nicky, Trekkie Monster and one of the two Bad Idea bears, along with Megan Armstrong as the other, was similarly brilliant – especially at alternating between the characters he was playing.
I thoroughly enjoyed both Nicholas McLean’s and Saori Oda‘s performances as Gary Coleman and Christmas Eve respectively, and Shadenfreude by McLean was possibly my favourite song in the show. While Oda gave a great performance, I did struggle to understand some of what she said at times.
The character of Christmas Eve is Japanese and is very stereotypically written for comedic effect – of which it is brilliant. However, I found that Oda’s diction at times was too incomprehensible to understand her fully, which was a shame because all three disciplines of acting, singing and dancing were otherwise great. I also struggled to understand Armstrong and Steedon as the Bad Idea Bears at times which was also disappointing.
The cast was completed by Oliver Stanley as Brian, and Jasmine Beele, Chloe Gentless, Robbie Noonan and Ellis Dackombe in the ensemble.
What I found exceptional about the show was all the character’s abilities to change puppets so seamlessly, and the way each actor moved in perfect time with their puppet to truly bring it to life. Every detail was thought about, from the way a head tilts down ever so slightly to convey disappointment, or the way the mouth gets wider in astonishment, and for this I truly commend the actors and directors for making this so slick.
The humour is definitely the biggest selling point of the show, with songs such as You Can Be As Loud As The Hell You Want, When You Ruv Someone, Everyone’s A Little Bit Racist, and My Girlfriend Who Lives In Canada, having me truly laugh out loud – and the rest of the audience too. The lyrics, script and direction all work together to produce a show that is genuinely funny for an adult audience. Comedy is not often my favourite genre of theatre, but Avenue Q is something else altogether.
As well as the humour, I was also surprised how emotional I became at the lives of these little puppets on Avenue Q; a brilliant show all-round. This show has everything, and other than a lack of understanding at times from some of the characters, I loved it.
Avenue Q is playing at the New Theatre in Cardiff until 22 June, before heading to Glasgow, Sunderland, Nottingham and more.