When I think of how Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx penned Avenue Q, I imagine two drunk guys sitting in a pub, saying things like “what about a song about everyone being a little bit racist, I mean we all are, a bit”, “I love porn. What about a song about internet porn?” and “Hey Rob, what the fuck are you gonna do with that BA English of yours?”
Finally after a few rounds of beer, Jeff admits, “Look, Rob. I love Sesame Street. I love musicals. I love taboo. I think puppets having sex would be weirdly hilarious”. Rob whips out his keyboard, and Avenue Q is born.
Dubbed as the Sesame Street for grown ups, Avenue Q offers a comedic perspective on the classic coming-of-age narrative. Princeton moves to Avenue Q, intent upon finding his “purpose” in life. Along the way he encounters several characters: love interest Kate Monster, Nick and Rod (parodies of Ernie and Bert), and obviously, Gary Coleman from Different Strokes – because why not? An undeniably challenging production, the stars of the show are the puppets, meaning the cast have the job of operating their fabric friends whilst maintaining the illusion that they are real characters. Nonetheless, I had great expectations for Shotgun Theatre’s production of the highly-acclaimed musical.
Firstly, it is necessary to point out that the set is fantastic – it captures the urban vibes of backstreet New York with a sense of vibrancy to match the cartoon-like puppets. This is the setting for the entire show, and caters to every song, mood and action accordingly.
“IT FAR EXCEEDS WHAT IS EXPECTED OF AN AMATEUR PRODUCTION, AND WOULDN’T BE OUT OF PLACE ON THE WEST END”
Avenue Q far exceeds what is expected of an amateur production, and it wouldn’t be out of place on the West End. The cast are perfectly matched to their characters, which is a testament to both the performers and the creative team. The puppetry is executed flawlessly; it doesn’t take long before the cast becomes invisible and the puppets take over. It’s a true expression of multi-dimensional talent.
Hannah Bloom, who plays Kate Monster, is particularly impressive; her vocals are powerful throughout her performance, and she maintains a great balance of sensitivity and comedy. Kate Monster’s rival in the musical, Lucy (The Slut), played by Alice Kenny, is another stand-out. Described as “a boa-wearing nightclub singer who likes to seduce young guys”, Kenny’s sultry voice and all round performance is remarkable. Jasper Frost, who plays Trekkie Monster, a parody of a porn-obsessed Cookie Monster, must also be commended for his incredibly, and startlingly-accurate vocals.
Perhaps my favourite performance is that of Fergus Church, who plays Rod, an investment banker struggling to come to terms with his sexuality. His vocal stylings are tuned to perfection, and his sense of animation is entertaining throughout the show.
Without a dull moment, the storyline moves fluidly and the audience remain lively and engaged. A bold and exciting show, director Rosie Thomas has created one of the best amateur dramatic performances I have ever seen. I tried to think of critiques, but have quite happily failed in doing so.
So I’ll conclude that there is indeed “life outside your apartment”, and you should go and see it. It might be one of the best things you see all year.