If you love the puppetry magic of The Lion King, and the political incorrectness of The Book of Mormon, you will love Avenue Q The Musical. It is a show as clever as it is funny, and will change the way you think about the colourful and furry puppets synonymous with Sesame Street. Where once they educated you about the alphabet and building friendships, in this ‘live in front of a studio audience’ episode you learn how giving to others can be a selfish act, what the internet is really for, and in one unforgettable scene, the characters spell out S E X.
The show follows Princeton (Jordan Pollard), a Nick Caraway like character who arrives at Avenue Q with big dreams. He meets his new neighbours, who are a party mix of monsters, animals, humans, humans who are puppets, and one child star, all grown up. As he tries to discover his purpose in life, Princeton becomes distracted by The Bad Idea Bears (Kathleen Amarant and Brett Fisher), and his love interest Kate Monster (Sarah Golding). Unfortunately, as he tries to regain his focus, he ends up hurting those closest to him.
Avenue Q is comparable to watching an American sitcom. It has an opening theme song, advertisements and public service announcements throughout, and rolling credits at the end. The scenes and songs are very short, and there are a few subplots, which weave between the rollercoaster romance of Princeton and Kate. However, though this show imitates a familiar format, there is an irony present in every single moment, which drives a lot of the humour.
The success of this show is dependent upon the skills of the puppeteers, and the cast in this production are sensational. Their American accents are perfect, and the multitasking involved in handling the puppet, on top of acting, singing and dancing is remarkable to watch. To the extent, it is easy to forget that these puppets have only a single expression – their features do not move –yet they appear to evoke so much emotion. It is this unique dynamic of the puppeteers performing, and the audience’s recognition of the human side of these puppets, which really brings them to life.
Arguably for a musical, which aims to address real world adult problems, it does seem a bit out-of-date. Avenue Q opened Off Broadway in 2003, before the rise of social media and dating apps, before the global financial crisis, and at a time when a ‘coming out’ plotline would have be enlightening to audiences. Today, though still relevant, the show is less thought provoking, and feels more like a good laugh.
This particular production does include little gems, which help adapt this musical for new age audiences. In one number Christmas Eve (Leah Lim) is seen dancing Gangnam Style, and there are amusing references to Tony Abbott and myki cards. As an audience, it would be fascinating to watch a second episode of Avenue Q, with these hilarious characters holding a mirror up to adults living and loving in today’s world.
Avenue Q The Musical
Chapel Off Chapel, 12 Little Chapel Street, Prahran
Performance: Saturday 28 March 2015
Season continues to 11 April 2015 (sold out)
For more information, visit: www.trifletheatrecompany.com for details.
Image: Avenue Q – photo by Mike Snow (Smo Theatre Photography)
Review: Thomas Jones
Thomas Jones has gained extensive experience over the past seven years both in the UK and Australia working as an editor for Australian Times, and a freelance reviewer for Everything Theatre and FilmDude. He was also an assessor for the Off West End Theatre Awards known as The Offies, and created KangRooviews – a website promoting Australian performing arts in the UK.