I think we all need a little distraction at the moment, as the nights darken and Brexit chaos drags on. So if you’re in need of some inspiration, I thoroughly recommend a night out at the New Vic to see the delightfully funny and irreverent Avenue Q. Having won the prestigious Tony Triple Crown for best musical, best score and best book back in 2004, it remains one of the most original must-see productions of recent times. A very American musical, mimicking the format and concept of the classic American children’s TV show, Sesame Street, it is a highly relateable satire of modern life.
The musical tells the story of Princeton, who moves into Avenue Q where he makes a range of human and puppet friends, such as Kate Monster (the girl from next door) and Lucy the Slut. Unlike on Sesame Street, where children are encouraged to follow the dreams, Princeton, a recent college graduate, is struggling to find his purpose in life, which is not helped by the fact that none of his new neighbours have achieved their life dreams either. The opening number, ‘It sucks to be me’ sets the scene for the various characters to introduce very satirical adult themes such as racism, homosexuality, sex, commitment and schadenfreude.
The characters are played by both humans and puppets, which doesn’t take long to get used to due to the brilliance of the actors/puppeteers. Principal roles by Cecily Redman (Kate Monster and Lucy the Slut) and Lawrence Smith (Princeton and Rod) lead a talented cast through the various highly physical (including a very explicit and hilarious sex scene) and brilliantly choreographed song/dance routines and dialogues, performed with non-stop energy and vivacity. Delightful characters such as Trekkie Monster and his unashamed love of internet porn, and the Bad Idea Bears, who do their best to lead Princeton astray, add even more hilarity to an already tight, brilliantly written book. The score and lyrics also deserve an honourable mention. Dialogue and songs are seamlessly brought together by a catchy, light-hearted score and clearly articulated lyrics, such as in the number, ‘Everyone is a little bit racist’. Humour is embedded at every level, ensuring that the audience is entertained and engaged throughout the whole performance.
The notably young and full audience on opening night seemed largely familiar with the show, giving effusive credit to Redman on her performance at curtains. Her vocal range and ability to switch between characters was certainly admirable. But it’s not just the individual and collective talent that makes Avenue Q so appealing; it’s the way in which we are allowed to celebrate reality and laugh at ourselves as a society.
[Amanda Briggs October 2019]
Avenue Q is playing at the New Victoria theatre, Woking from 7-12 October