Do you ever wish the TV show you grew up on had grown up with you?
That the characters you once loved, made you laugh and taught you your abc’s had hurtled through the Tots TV era and straight into the fuck, shits and pisses reality of your adulthood? Avenue Q, “the adult puppet show” is exactly that show. From similar roots of Sesame Street, Bert, Ernie, The Count and Cookie Monster to name a few comes Avenue Q and it’s puppets Princeton, Rod, Nicky, Kate Monster and their humans Brian, Christmas Eve and Gary Coleman.
Avenue Q has itself a bit cult following. There are those that hear it’s about to come to town and book tickets on opening and closing night for their entire street and the lady who works in the kebab shop because “it’s just so funny! You HAVE TO SEE IT” and there’s those like me who have heard of it (probably from one of those cult members) and decides that yes, they must see if, even if it’s just to see what all the fuss is about.
They’ve adopted the basic principles of your favourite childhood show complete with informative videos, but the life lessons and subjects touched upon are less Sing a Song with Elmo and are more what you’d find in an episode of South Park.
Avenue Q opened in the Big Apple (or NYC) back in 2003 and was the master mind of two musical theatre fans (Jeff Marx and Robert Lopez) thought it might be fun to remix Shakespeare with little old Kermit the Frog as the leading man. This idea grew legs (or a hand up the butt) and morphed into a show which ran on Broadway, has toured the UK and won a Tony for Best Musical. Not bad for a bunch of puppets, eh?
The show itself is set on the in the dingy residential neighbourhood of Avenue Q (as opposed to the upmarket Avenue A) where the characters live and which serves as the backdrop for the play. This gloomy stage setting which highlights the show’s somewhat dark and ironic humour which arises from its contrasts with Sesame Street, which also serves as a metaphor of the contrasts between childhood and adulthood, and between the children’s TV world and the real world.
When bright eyed and puppet faced Princeton (Richard Lowe) arrives at Avenue Q, he has a new job, big dreams and lands himself an apartment next door to Rod, Brian (Richard Morse), Kate Monster (Sarah Harlington) and co. Despite this, Princeton was about to learn that when one door opens, a million more shut in your face. He loses his job and only source of income, he has bills to pay and he has two Bad Idea Bears on his shoulder. After finding common ground with the sweet and forever single Kate Monster, Princeton’s life seems to be looking up. Before you know it one good date and an iced tea leads to another, and the next thing you know you’re sat behind a 70 year old man watching puppets get the stuffing knocked out of them in scenes usually saved for Tube8. It’s weird, it’s hilarious and it kind of has to be seen to be believed.
As with all love stories and coming of ages stories, all ends happily ever after(ish) and along the way, Princeton and his friends learn some life lessons through the magic of a musical number, of course! Songs such as ‘It Sucks to Be Me’, ‘Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist’, ‘The Internet is For Porn’ and ‘You Can Be As Loud As The Hell You Want (When You’re Makin’ Love)’ may sound like an offence waiting to happen but there’s something about Avenue Q which makes all the swearing, sex and close to the bone jokes seem jovial good fun when delivered by a fluffy monster with a human attached to their backside.
The puppeteering of the show itself is unconcealed and at first you wonder whether you’re about to witness ventriloquism en masse (which seems a little creepy), but the talented cast really become one with their puppets and their plain dark clothing is contrasted by the bright and animated colours of the puppets. The cast bring the puppets to life so much so that I was much more accepting of the dual personalities of the characters than I’d have thought. Sarah Harlington excellently switched roles from polar opposites of the sweet natured Kate Monster to the aptly named Lucy the Slut and I didn’t even notice that Richard Lowe was the puppeteering talents behind both Princeton and Rod.
This tongue in cheek show is most definitely worth the hype. It’ll have you laughing out loud in your seat, cringing at those aforementioned “close to the bone” segments and wanting to be one of those people who INSISTS to others that they catch it before it moves on to the next city.
With that in mind…. you MUST go and see Avenue Q before it ends its run at the Regent Theatre in Stoke on the 26th March. Tickets are available online or via the box office.