Avenue Q is the hilariously crude, yet masterfully-written comedy musical from the minds of Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx. Shotgun Theatre are putting on a production of the hit later this month, so I asked them a few questions on what we can expect. Here’s what they had to say:
Firstly, can you give us a rundown of what the show is about?
Rosie Thomas (Director) – The story follows Princeton, who has just finished college in New York City. He’s trying to find his goal in life and he moves to Avenue Q, which is where all the other characters live, and it’s about all the stories and the trials of the characters who live there.
Fergus Church (Rod) – Avenue Q basically follows this idea that when you’re a child and you’re growing up, everyone tells you that you’re special and different. Then you grow up, leave university and become an adult, and you realise that you’re not all that special. It’s about that realisation and how to cope with that, and through that realising that just because you’re not special doesn’t mean you’re not important.
Incredibly upbeat and absolutely hilarious
Shotgun Theatre has a reputation as Exeter University’s quirkiest musical theatre company. What was it that initially drew the company to Avenue Q?
Jack Dryden (Producer / Shotgun Theatre General Secretary) – For me, Avenue Q stood out as a real contender because I think it does something really clever. It takes the bright puppets, smiles and catchy music of the children’s TV programme, Sesame Street, which provided its inspiration, and exposes that to the reality of life, where things often don’t work out the way we planned.
How would you describe the show’s soundtrack? Are there any standout tunes we should look out for?
RT – Incredibly upbeat and absolutely hilarious. It’s actually the first thing that I looked into when I was thinking about taking on the show and I absolutely fell in love with it: every song has its own unique message. I think my favourite is ‘For Now’, and another one I really like is ‘Everyone’s A Little Bit Racist’.
Pete Broughton (Nicky) – There’s a lot of really grounded songs that tackle relationships, sexuality and where you are in life, for example ‘If You Were Gay’. They’re just really funny and very relatable.
Obviously Avenue Q is different to your typical show in that is makes heavy use of puppets. How have you found working with puppetry? Is it something you’d like to do more of in the future?
Hannah Bloom (Kate Monster) – The difficult thing is it’s all in the small details. You have to really focus in on the smaller motions of their faces, and since they have their set facial expressions it’s all in the little head movements. It’s been such a good learning experience, as it’s definitely broadened my perception of the work that goes into making a show.
PB – I’ve actually always wanted to work with puppets, and when I found out Shotgun were doing Avenue Q I just really wanted to be involved because of that. Overall it has been really difficult, but so much fun to do!
The show has been described as a “laugh out loud coming of age musical”. Why would you say this is the case?
RT – It’s just absolutely ridiculous and hilarious. It says all the things that you could never think or imagine a theatre piece would be able to say. It’s about coming-of-age because it’s just all about that struggle you experience when you complete one of the big steps in your life and you’re trying to work out where to go next.
FC – All the jokes are definitely relatable, and it’s cleverly written in that each character has a different personality and sense of humour so it definitely has something for everyone in that sense.
The show has also been described as “Sesame Street for adults”. Are there any characters that we may recognise from the classic children’s TV show in some shape or form?
Tom Skitt (Bad Idea Bear / Newcomer / Swing) – Well Nicky and Rod are a take on Bert and Ernie, then Trekkie Monster is a weird version of Cookie Monster, but I think he’s a bit Big Bird too. It’s definitely just a parody of that style of kids TV, just as rude and as sexual as it can be.
What would you say are the main issues at the heart of the production?
RT – It’s all about those internal personal issues, so it brings in sexuality, race, gender, homelessness, and obviously there’s this whole idea of finding your purpose and who you want to be.
HB – A lot of people see Avenue Q as just this crude show with puppets that swear, but really it’s all about these characters discovering things about themselves, which I think people (especially people at uni) can just find so easily relatable.
Ella Nokes (Bad Idea Bear / Mrs T / Swing) – At the heart of it, it’s all about addressing the question: “Now what?”
How have you gone about addressing these issues in such a comedic show?
Karenza Killingbeck (Gary Coleman) – It’s been written so well that there are these moments of sadness and joy, and then within these moments you can see that there’s comedy which you can just laugh at even though these people are in bad situations.
What would you like for us to take away from the show?
RT – I know the message I love in the show is this idea of embracing your ‘for now’ and letting whatever it is that’s happening at the moment in your life be, embracing the changes that might happen and recognising how much the people around you can support and help you.
Harry Neal (Princeton) – I’d like them to take away the final song really, For Now, because it sums up the show as a whole and those final few words ‘life may be scary, but it’s only temporary’ are how I’d like the show to be remembered.
So, to summarise, why should we come and see the show?
Hannah Bloom – It’s honestly such a great show, we’ve all worked so hard and there’s nothing else really like it. It’s fun, it’s different, and it’s so smart. Everyone in the cast and the production team have just given so much to the show and we’ve had so much fun, and we’re a little family now because of it.
Avenue Q is being performed at the Exeter Phoenix, 18th – 21st January
Tickets can be purchased from www.exeterphoenix.org.uk.