Saturday, 2 August 2014

Review - Musical: Avenue Q

8:00pm Saturday 19th July 2014

For years upon years, I have heard nothing but good things about Avenue Q. Subsequently, I have always wanted to go and see it-you can imagine how devastated I was when it came out of the West End. 

You can probably also imagine how excited I was when I got an email from Theater Royal Winchester saying the UK tour was going to town. I immediately messaged Pip and arranged for Andrew and I to visit her and Maxx, and to go and see it with them.

Winner of the TONY “Triple Crown” for Best MusicalBest Score andBest BookAvenue Q is part flesh, part felt and packed with heart.
Avenue Q is a laugh-out-loud musical that tells the story of a recent college graduate named Princeton who moves into a shabby New York apartment all the way out on Avenue Q. There, he meets Kate (the girl next door), Rod (the Republican), Trekkie (the internet sexpert), Lucy The Slut and other colorful types who help Princeton finally discover his true purpose in life!

My Thoughts

The stage was open as the audience enter the auditorium. The set is proudly on display, with two televisions suspended to the the left and right sides of the stage. I love the look of the set, and the effect of having the smaller buildings behind the main facade - this created the illusion of depth to the small stage. I was surprised at how far forwards the set was, having worked in this theater before I know that the stage goes further back than what I could see. N.B. I worked on shows here intermittently throughout university. 

The show opens with a video shown on the TV's alongside the Avenue Q Theme. Immediately after we were thrown into the world of Avenue Q, and meeting the residents - through the medium of song, of course. The Plethora of characters were widely different, but all had their current situations in common - a lack of money, unhappy with their lot in life, and wanting more. The story centers around Princeton - a recent graduate. His story resonated with the four of us because we are all in a similar situation - trying to work out what the heck to do with our lives. 

The story progresses with some very shocking songs. 'Everyone's A Little Bit Racist' and 'The Internet is for Porn' were particular favorites of ours. There were so many moments when Pip and I would turn to look at each other with expressions of scandalised delight. Through the first act we see the protagonists (Princeton and Kate Monster) start a relationship - including a rampant puppet sex scene - and later ending the relationship just before the interval. There are also other stories interwoven through this act - the roommates Nicky and Rod keep butting heads due to living in a small place together, and due to Rod being a closet homosexual - Nicky suspects this is the case and tries to help Rod come out. Cue 'If You Were Gay'. Rod eventually snaps and throws Nicky out of their apartment. Christmas Eve and Brian finally get married - with much pushing from Christmas Eve, who most certainly wears the trousers in their relationship! Incidentally, it is at the wedding that Princeton develops cold feet and we see an amazing display of what is running through his mind - culminating in a giant Bridezilla Kate. It is also the scene in which Rod throws Nicky out. We also see Gary Coleman - who is the superintendent of Avenue Q, and Trekkie Monster who is often referred to as a pervert. Lucy the Slut performs at Avenue Q's Around the Clock Cafe - where she shows a particular interest in Princeton, much to Kate's dismay. Though Kate was the one who took Princeton home for the aforementioned puppet sex. Popping up at intervals we also met the Bad Idea Bears. The name says it all really...

At act 2, Kate is jobless, Princeton is miserable and also jobless, Nicky is homeless, Rod is struggling to repress his feelings, Brian and Christmas Eve are married, Gary Coleman is Gary Coleman, and the Bad Idea Bears are up to their usual mischief. I couldn't wait to be thrown back in to their world.

We see many of the characters at their lowest points in this act. Things start to slowly get better - or rather, the residents of Avenue Q start to deal with their circumstances a little better. We see them become more comfortable with who they are, and start to think about others instead of themselves and their own problems. I think we are all a little guilty of wallowing in our own problems and ignoring everyone else's. I wont go into detail on the second act - wouldn't want to spoil it ;)

The puppetry was extremely well done. You see the puppeteers at all times, and their faces matched exactly what you imagine the puppets face would look like if they had more facical expressions. Or matched the puppet's face exactly. It was uncanny at times...

The physicality of the puppets was brilliant, each puppet moved in a different way. In particular I noticed the way Lucy The Slut entered and exited - always with an exaggerated strut which set her hair bouncing around. It was done in such a way that you couldn't take your eyes off her at times - and yes, this is a puppet I'm talking about. I could also see the puppeteers physical movements alter, the puppeteer also animated Kate Monster - who is a very different character to Lucy. Everything about her changed - her facial expressions, her walk; her voice became a sultry, deep 'come hither' drawl instead of the high, sweet sounding Kate. It was an amazing example of adaptability and acting skill. 

There were other puppeteers who also swapped around based on who was on stage, half the time you wouldn't realise a puppet's voice was actually coming from the other side of the stage until you really looked out for it. It was done so well, almost seamlessly. The other half of the time is at the beginning of the show when you're trying to workout who to look at - puppet or puppeteer. FYI: The puppet wins.

I was also impressed with the skill of the non-puppeteer actors. Working with puppets rather than humans is difficult, though of course the puppeteers were also there. It would have been incredibly distracting if Brian, Christmas Eve and Gary Coleman had been splitting their focus between the puppet and puppeteer. Their focus was admirable and kept the audience focus where it needed to be.

Avenue Q is an absolute pleasure to watch-albeit a guilty pleasure! I would definitely go and see this again, and recommend going to see it - especially if you, like me, have no idea what to do now uni is finished! 

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