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Avenue Q Review UK Tour

Avenue Q review with Jessica Parker and Stephen Arden as The Bad Idea Bears. Avenue Q UK Tour, Bristol Hippodrome Photo Credit Matt Martin Photography

AVENUE Q REVIEW

The Bristol Hippodrome

Monday 8th – Saturday 13th February 2016

Featuring the naughtiest puppets in town, brought hilariously to life by an ensemble cast of 11 performers, Avenue Q is a Tony Award-winning musical about growing up, dreaming big, and finding your purpose in life.

Story Synopsis

Princeton, a bright-eyed graduate, comes to New York City with big dreams and a tiny bank account. Soon discovering that the only neighbourhood in his price range is Avenue Q, he finds himself moving in alongside some quirky characters. There’s Brian, the out-of-work comedian and his therapist fiancée Christmas Eve; Nicky the good-hearted slacker and his closet gay roommate Rod; an Internet ‘expert’ called Trekkie Monster and a naive kindergarten teacher named Kate Monster. And would you believe the building’s superintendent is Gary Coleman from the US sitcom “Different Strokes”?!

“What you talking about Willis?”

Avenue Q Review

Having seen the publicity pictures, I very nearly decline tickets to the opening night of Avenue Q at The Bristol Hippodrome. As a child I wasn’t a big fan of Sesame Street or The Muppets and at face value Avenue Q looks like it might be on the same lines. Fortunately I do some research before making my decision and my interest is piqued when I discover that this is both a puppet show and not recommended for children: surely a contradiction in terms!

By the time I arrive at the theatre I still have very little idea what to expect, but reading through the programme’s cast list, I start to get an inkling. How can I fail to be intrigued by characters with names like ‘Christmas Eve’, ‘The Bad Idea Bears’ and ‘Lucy the Slut’?

As we walk towards our seats, I start to think I may have made the right decision in bringing a friend rather than 12-year-old Jamifly!

Avenue Q review UK tour Bristol Hippodrome

I’ve been warned beforehand that the show is not suitable for young children, but as the first act unfolds I begin to wonder whether Jamifly might have quite enjoyed the competitively miserable song, “It Sucks to be Me” and ‘got’ the cheery rendition of, “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist” but doubt starts to creep in during Trekkie Monster’s hilarious musical insistence that, “The Internet Is for Porn”. By the time Kate Monster and Princeton get very publicly down and dirty, then up and dirty, then into most other puppetly-possible sexual positions, I’ve mentally raised my age guide for the show to at least eighteen and am relieved that my Mother didn’t agree to accompany me! I wouldn’t have thought that naked puppets could possibly look so realistic, but hats (and everything else) off to the puppeteers’ skills, as the sex scene feels positively X-rated!

Apart from their black attire, no attempt is made to conceal the puppeteers. They stand beside their puppets with expressive human faces and moving mouths clearly in view.  Sometimes two people are required to operate one puppet and other times one person provides the dialogue for two puppets within the same conversation, while for some unexplained reason the other puppeteer remains mute. Sarah Harlington is ridiculously good at this when voicing both sides of conversations between uptight school teacher Kate Monster and the floozie, Lucy the Slut, with her long blonde hair and ample cleavage, completely changing the mood and tone as she flits between the characters. She’s so talented with her facial expressions and singing voice, I find it hard to remember to focus on the puppets when she’s on stage. Her excited outburst as Kate Monster at the wedding of Christmas Eve and Brian, epitomizes Avenue Q’s humour and is one of my favourite lines of the show:-

“I caught the bouquet! Well actually a little girl caught it, but she wasn’t very strong.”

Some of the puppets’ squeaky voices suggest they’re going to be sweet and cuddly: The aptly named ‘Bad Idea Bears’ look and sound super-cute, until you hear the immoral advice they’re doling out.

“Feel her boobs” and  “Take her home, she’s wasted!” 

Avenue Q review with Jessica Parker and Stephen Arden as The Bad Idea Bears. Avenue Q UK Tour, Bristol Hippodrome Photo Credit Matt Martin Photography
OK they’re totally inappropriate but they’re flippin’ funny!

And then of course there’s the theme of pornography, brought to us by the loveable ‘Trucky monster’, the pervert, who’s as fond of porn as Cookie Monster is of cookies.

Age Suitability

Don’t even go there. The show itself recommends 14+. I’d say 18 and even then I’d send my children with friends as I wouldn’t be prepared to sit through graphic puppet porn with any of my offspring!

The Verdict?

My friend Kath and I agree that this show is completely different to anything we’ve seen before. I don’t often find myself laughing out loud at the theatre, but Avenue Q is one of those shows. With controversial themes like Schadenfreude, racism, closet homosexuality and pornography, the line is crossed so often that it’s hard to remember where it was meant to be to start with.
The puppeteers are multi-talented, manipulating various legless puppets while singing, acting, maintaining convincing American accents and strutting and sashaying alongside the regular human actors as required. I find myself thinking that this is exactly the right combination of performers as the cast work so well together.
We’d highly recommend this as a tremendously entertaining night out, but definitely with no kids and preferably no parents in tow!

*****

Cast and Credits

The cast features Sarah Harlington as Kate Monster/Lucy the Slut, Richard Lowe as Princeton/Rod and Arina II as Christmas Eve. Returning to the show following last year’s tour are Stephen Arden as Nicky/Trekkie Monster, Richard Morse as Brian, Etisyai Philip as Gary Coleman and Jessica Parker as Mrs T/ Bad Idea Bear.

Avenue Q is produced by Sell a Door Theatre Company, who have been touring this new production since 2014.

Avenue Q has a book by Jeff Whitty and music and lyrics by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx. It is directed and choreographed by Cressida Carré, with set design by Richard Evans, lighting design by Charlie Morgan Jones and sound design by Chris Bogg and DBS Solutions. Orchestrations and arrangements are by Stephen Oremus. It is produced by Sell a Door Theatre Co and Richard Darbourne Ltd. Puppets are designed by Paul Jomain for Q Puppets (www.Qpuppets.co.uk).

 

www.AvenueQUK.com

 

AVENUE Q

Monday 8th – Saturday 13th February 2016

Performances:

Mon/Tue/Wed/Thu @ 7.30 pm

Fri @ 5.00 pm & 8.30 pm

Sat @ 2.30 pm & 7.30 pm

Tickets: from £12.90

Concessions available at certain performances

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14 comments… add one
  • Morgan Prince 19/02/2016, 16:59

    Great review, I probably would have declined tickets to something like this but you’ve piqued my interest! Sounds like great entertainment. 🙂

  • Purple Ella 10/02/2016, 19:59

    Great review, and glad to hear you enjoyed the show too. Who would have thought that puppet porn was a thing!

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