Avenue Q a bit furry around the edges but still a hilarious romp

Avenue Q Sophie Wright with Kate MonsterAvenue Q: The Musical has returned to Melbourne with a cast that will guarantee to have you laughing, whether you are new to the show or returning for another bout of politically incorrect puppet humour.

For those who haven’t yet seen Avenue Q, it can simply be described as an adults-only version of Sesame Street. While it is indeed a parody of the children’s TV show and there are many direct similarities to several of its characters, each puppet takes on a darker spin to tell a somewhat realistic account of the negative aspects of our society and issues that are normally taboo.

The cast of puppets and monsters are joined by several human characters such as Gary Coleman, a fictional account of the late great child star, who is forced to work as a superintendent of the building each character lives in, and is generally played by a woman (in this case Zuleika Khan).

Each hilarious (and mostly inappropriate) song delves into issues such as the difficulties of finding work (What Do You Do with a B.A. in English?), racism (Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist), finding pleasure in the misfortune of others (Schadenfreude), internet pornography (The Internet Is for Porn), and the acceptance of another’s sexual identity (If You Were Gay).  And while each song and scene may seem at first to be wildly inappropriate (and some most definitely are), the under lining moral of the story and life in general is summed up in the final number For Now.

Avenue Q’s hilarious take on life as well as being a Sesame Street parody has made it a well-known and welcome addition to theatre circles around the world. Although the Melbourne cast was small, overall each member skilfully gave life to the characters now easily recognisable to those who have seen the performance before.

Sophie Wright (Kate Monster, Lucy the slut) and Ross Hannaford (Princeton, Rod) were successful in their lead roles and vocals, as well as Vincent Hooper (Nicky, Trekkie Monster) and Lulu McClatchy (Mrs Thistletwat, Bad Idea Bears) who provided the majority of the comic relief. A special mention also must be made to the exceptional vocal talent and comic prowess of Sun Park who played the politically incorrect “oriental” archetype, Christmas Eve.

It was a bit disappointing to see that the set itself was not large enough to fit the width of Her Majesty’s Theatre’s stage and gave a more amateurish feel to an otherwise polished performance.  In particular the video screen was a letdown.  It was far too small and high to be of any significance, yet was used continuously for humorous ‘cut scenes’ (when you could actually read the words), the introduction to the performance itself, as well as setting the scene for one of Avenue Q’s final scenes.

Some of the puppet movements looked more random than deliberate compared to other performances, such as the silhouette window scenes during You Can Be as Loud as the Hell You Want (When You’re Makin’ Love) that looked like a rushed afterthought rather than choreographed to the music.  It is hoped that Director Peter J Snee (who is also directing the current run of Ghost Stories) works out these overall minor but distracting points during the show’s rather short performance run of just two weeks.

This being said, I strongly recommend Avenue Q to anyone who has not yet seen it, and it is guaranteed to give the same laughs to those revisiting this now classic show in the making.

Avenue Q
Her Majesty’s Theatre, 219 Exhibition Street, Melbourne
Performance: Thursday 4 August 2016 – 8.00pm
Season continues to 14 August 2016
Information and Bookings: www.ticketek.com.au

Image: Sophie Wright with Kate Monster in Avenue Q (supplied)

Review: Jimmy Twin