I’ve been a little slow in getting along to see this Tony Award Winning import and I only wish I’d got there sooner.
Superficially this is pseudo Muppets singing rude songs.
However pay attention and you’ll soon realise that at it’s heart Avenue Q is a touching and honest coming of age story with a romantic bent.
It’s also, as any look at the furry performers will suggest, a thoroughly unabashed pastiche of Seasame Street which fuses a cast of adorably cute puppets with a series of adult orientated songs. These include the shameful but instantly hummable ‘Everyone’s a little bit racist’ and ‘The Internet is for porn’.
Each of the furry performers is assisted by one or more humans. Of these Jon Rrobyns, the voice of central protagonist Princeton and in denial gay banker Rod, easily steals the show.
Robyns (pictured centre) displays some quite exquisite timing which allows him swap between characters without missing a beat. His timing is eclipsed only once during the performance by co-star Simon Lipkin.
In the midst of ‘The Internet is for porn’ Lipkin, as Trekkie Monster, defers to the audience on the question of whether ‘normal people’ browse the web for porn and manages to hold the audience’s gaze just long enough to elicit the guilty laughs he seeks without holding up the narrative.
Robyns and Lipkin are joined by Julie Atherton as Kate Monster and Lucy the Slut. Together the three infuse the cast of half length puppets with such believable and sympathetic personalities that you rapidly forget the main performers are just felt and ping pong ball eyes.
The puppets are joined by three human performers; Naoko Mori as Christmas Eve, Siôn Lloyd as her useless boyfriend Brian and Giles Terera in a cruel rendition of former child star Gary Coleman.
Newest cast member Mori, fresh from BBC Three’s Doctor Who spin-off Torchwood, is called upon to provide a terribly stereotyped performance of a Japanese immigrant.
Her highlight is the somewhat warped ‘The more you Ruv someone’ which contains the rather worrying line ‘The more you ruv someone the more you want to kill him’.
The genius in the songs is the way they draw you in leading to you quickly finding yourself resisting the urge to sing along. I became so engrossed that when the puppets came into the audience to mock collect cash for Kate Monster’s special cause I found myself reaching for my wallet.
I defy anyone not to shed at least half a tear at Trekkie’s final song.
Thematically this is not well suited to youngsters and much of the humour requires a more adult world view than most teenagers could claim. It’s a roaring success which will have you howling in the stalls.
AVENUE Q the musical – The Noël Coward Theatre, St Martin’s Lane, London, WC2N 5AU.