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Ever since I was a child I have loved the thrill of the theatre and the magic of musicals. As an 80’s child I grew up watching Sesame Street and the furry, funny muppets became a part of my childhood. Educational, hilarious and mischievous I learned and laughed alongside them.
So, being asked to review Avenue Q, the laugh out loud puppet musical, was right up my street!
On arrival, the stage was uncovered as the audience took their seats and anticipation grew. Set as a smoky New York City address complete with garbage cans reminiscent of Oscar the Grouch, Avenue Q immediately reminded me of Sesame Street. In fact, as the music began, two television screens lit up and welcomed us to Avenue Q via subway. At regular intervals throughout the show these screens treated the audience to short and often hilarious films further explaining the story on stage.
You’d be very much mistaken for thinking a musical featuring puppets is for children. In fact, Avenue Q is billed as 14+ only.
Even before any actors appeared on stage, the bad idea bears made it clear that the show would be focused on puppet maturity, discussing real life issues such as racism and homophobia with depth and promised plenty of adult humour.
The story of the show centres on the character of Princeton who has moved on to Avenue Q to find his purpose in life. His lively neighbours include teaching assistant Kate Monster, republican Rod and housemate Nicky, human Brian and his Japanese wife Christmas Eve and the Internet obsessed Trekkie Monster.
When entering stage, the actors who were playing puppet characters dressed all in black allowing the audience to focus instead on the puppets. This had a dual effect of allowing the actors to play multiple puppets throughout the show.
The slick production centred on Lawrence Smith’s portrayal of Princeton with a powerhouse voice and astonishing range of notes. Cecily Redman gave her incredible voice to Kate Monster, playing her sensitively and shyly as she falls in love with her next door neighbour Princeton. Cecily also played a second character named Lucy the slut (!) who was the perfect antiheroine with hilarious results.
Avenue Q is hysterical yet moving and depicts how multifaceted love can be: based on friendship, one night stands, unrequited and downright dirty. Hilariously, if you’ve ever wondered how puppets make love then this is the show for you!
Tom Steedon alongside Megan Armstrong showed skill in portraying three characters and showed true spirit by singing and talking in the musical style and sound of the original muppets. I picked up on nods to Bert and Ernie, Animal and Cookie Monster throughout the show.
The three actors playing human characters were equally excellent. Christmas Eve played by Saori Oda had the audience in stitches from the minute she walked on stage and Brian, played by Oliver Stanley offered a larger than life character which reminded me of Jason Segel in the Muppets movie. Nicholas McLean’s portrayal of Gary Coleman was brilliantly funny and his performance of ‘Schadenfreude’ had the Cheltenham audience in relentless laughter.
In fact, by the end of the show, the actors and puppets had become one very well constructed character community.
The real joy of the show is the fact the actors and puppets respect each other and remain of the understanding that they all play equal parts in the performance.
I was impressed with the speed and dexterity the actors showed when swapping characters and puppets. Not only do the actors have incredible strength of voice, their bodies and in particular their arms must be made of steel to be able to hold the puppets in character for the whole show!
The finale of ‘For Now’ saw audience members up and out of their seats in celebration of the show on its opening night and loud applause for the characters.
As the characters sing themselves, ‘There’s a fine, fine line’ but Avenue Q lives life on the edge and manages to pull off a fur-larious show which is shocking yet full of heart.
Thank you to the Everyman Theatre and Avenue Q for inviting us to spend an entertaining evening with you.
Have you seen Avenue Q? Do you love puppets? Are you a fan of musical theatre? Comment below and let me know!
As always, thank you so much for reading.
Love, Thrifty Mumma X
To book tickets for this week’s performances of Avenue Q at Cheltenham Everyman please visit the dedicated website: https://www.everymantheatre.org.uk
To find out more about Avenue Q please visit the dedicated website: http://avenuequk.com/home
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