If you grew up watching Sesame Street then it won’t take long to get into the swing of things on Avenue Q. Like the Street the world of Avenue Q is inhabited by a variety of brightly coloured puppets who interact naturally with humans as though it’s the most normal thing in the world...all without the aid of mind altering substances too. And, like Sesame Street, Avenue Q examines some of the issues that most of us face, albeit with more of a focus on coming of age ‘adult’ stuff as opposed to why someone stole your action man or pulled your pigtails during the lunch break. Of course in the wonderful world of TV you don’t actually see the puppeteers/performers at all, onstage this is a impossible conceit to maintain but it’s surprising how quickly you forget they’re there...in the nicest possible way of course.
In a nutshell the show’s about a young puppet called Princeton finding his felt feet in the world, leaving Uni and discovering that the world’s not gagging for yet another English graduate. Along the way to discovering his ‘purpose’ in life he has some particularly energetic sex with another puppet (honestly, you’ll learn all the positions you ever need to know in this show...plus a few that perhaps you’re better off forgetting), he encounters Different Strokes’ Gary Coleman and comes across...actually maybe that’s an unfortunate way of putting it...a porn obsessed puppet called Trekkie Monster. Yes folks, this is a puppet show with a difference. And it’s ruddy hilarious. The songs tackle everything from racism and internet porn to schadenfreude, the wicked but irresistible pleasure derived from the misfortune of others, and if you didn’t think you could get a catchy tune out of a word like that then this alone is worth the price of a ticket.
The cast is exceptional too. Lord knows it’s hard enough getting up there on stage and performing let alone playing several different characters and operating a puppet at the same time. Jessica Parker deserves a special mention for stepping into the role of Kate Monster and Lucy The Slut, neither of which she was due to play. I never thought it was possible to fall in love with a puppet but her portrayal of Kate was a delight from start to finish. Similarly Tom Steedon, who played her love interest Princeton, somehow managed to make you actually care about the cloth and stuffing on his hand. He came into his own as Rod though, a wonderfully uptight closet queen who...well...that would spoil things wouldn’t it eh?
In many ways this is a musical for people who wouldn’t dream of ever going to see one. If you’ve ever enjoyed the irreverent humour of stuff like South Park or the Simpsons though you’ll love Avenue Q. And, whilst I’d never seen it before, a quick trawl through You Tube shows that this cast absolutely nails it...arguably even better than the original performers back in 2004 on Broadway perhaps. Simply Q-mendous fun. A must see.
Avenue Q is on at the New Alexandra Theatre until Saturday 20th September. Tickets right here...see, the internet isn’t just for porn...ahem...