Avenue Q: Hands Up A Great Musical

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 25th August 2009.

Have you ever wondered what an adult version of Sesame St would be like? One where all of the characters had real life problems such as unemployment, homelessness and relationship dysfunction? If so, then Avenue Q is the musical for you.

Avenue Q opened at the Theatre Royal is Sydney on 12th August. Directed by Jonathan Biggins of Three Men and a Baby Grand fame, the musical stars Michala Banas from McLeod’s Daughters and David James from The Hollowmen and Play School.

Broadly based on TV’s Sesame St, Avenue Q features humans, puppet humans and puppet monsters living together on one of New York’s most run-down streets. Similarly to the Lion King musical, the puppeteers dress simply in grey and stand on stage in full view of the audience. They sing, dance and manipulate their puppets, which are crafted from the waist up only, without attempting to hide, yet somehow the eye is drawn to the cute Muppets-like characters and the puppeteers soon fade from view.

New university graduate Princeton (a puppet human) can only afford to live on Avenue Q, which is managed by superintendent Gary Coleman (yes, that Gary Coleman). He falls in love with Kate Monster (a puppet monster), a teaching assistant who yearns to open up a school for monsters. Also living on the street are Christmas Eve, a therapist with no clients, and her fiancé, Brian, an unemployed wannabe stand-up comedian, as well as Nicky and Rod (both puppet humans),  best buddies who share a flat, just like Bert and Ernie. The elusive Trekkie Monster (a puppet) also lives on Avenue Q and spends most of his inside his room, addicted to internet adult websites.

The musical follows the highs and lows of these characters and more, all set to catchy Sesame St style songs, albeit with adult orientated titles such as What Do You Do With A BA In English, The Internet Is For Porn, It Sucks To Be Me and Everyone’s A Little Bit Racist.

Conceived by Jeff Marx and Robert Lopez, Avenue Q originally opened on Broadway in 2003 and went on to beat Wicked for Best Musical at the 2004 Tony Awards. It is currently the 21st longest running show on Broadway. A production of Avenue Q is also underway on London’s West End, and a Las Vegas production ran for 9 months in 2006.

Sharp, clever and very funny, Avenue Q had the capacity audience in stitches. The New York street set was simple but effective, and the occasional use of video screens worked well. The puppeteer cast brilliantly managed multiple characters, sometimes simultaneously on stage. All performers sang strongly, with Michala Banas in particularly fine voice.

Despite the puppets and children’s TV style songs, Avenue Q is not a show for children, with frequent coarse language, adult themes and a now infamous bedroom scene between two puppets. For two hours of pure theatrical and comedy bliss, Avenue Q is highly recommended.

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Published in: on December 10, 2009 at 07:55  Leave a Comment  
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