Avenue Q

Jun 11 2014 | By More

★★★★★     Streets ahead

King’s Theatre Tue 10 – Sat 14 June 2014

An adults-only take on Sesame Street, Avenue Q teaches us a thing or two about life while being one of the wittiest, most tuneful shows in Broadway history.

Ellena Vincent as Gary Coleman and Stephen Arden and Jessica Parker as Nicky in Avenue Q. Photo © Darren Bell

Ellena Vincent (Gary Coleman) with Stephen Arden and Jessica Parker (Nicky). Photo © Darren Bell

It’s the tale of recent college graduate Princeton and the friends he makes on New York’s Avenue Q: wannabe comic Brian and fiancée Christmas Eve, the client-less therapist; repressed roommates Nicky and Rod; teacher Kate Monster; porn perv Trekkie Monster (no relation!); and building superintendent Gary Coleman.

Yes, that’s Gary Coleman of Diff’rent Strokes fame – at least it is in the world of the show. It’s Gary who looks after the letting of apartments on Avenue Q which, given the Big Apple’s uptown-downtown plan, is one of the city’s less salubrious neighbourhoods.

What it lacks in class, the street brought to life in Sell A Door’s touring production makes up for in character, with Princeton and co the most colourful, friendly bunch you could wish to meet. Which isn’t to say they’re sickeningly nice, as they note in the songs Schadenfreude and Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist.

The show’s theme is the massive gap between youthful dreams and the reality of a world in which perhaps you’re not all that special. What Can You Do With a BA in English? sings Princeton, who’s striving to identify his purpose but getting distracted by cute, smart Kate, and ‘skanky’ bar singer Lucy The Slut.

Fastidious Rod is trying not to kill messy Nicky, while Nicky wants to help Rod find himself. Kate hopes to start a school for monsters, while Christmas Eve and Brian deal with career frustrations. Gary just wants to keep what self-respect he’s hung onto after a weird childhood as a TV star.

“like Jiminy Cricket crossed with Hannibal Lecter…”

TV screens either side of the stage occasionally offer advice, definitions or just extra gags, while the cuddliest little plushes you ever did see turn out to be the Bad Idea Bears, there to skew proceedings like Jiminy Cricket crossed with Hannibal Lecter. Packing crates sing, giant versions of the characters appear … this is a hugely inventive show, but director Cressida Carre never lets the technical aspects hide its huge heart.

Jacqueline Tate as Christmas Eve and Lucie-Mae Sumner as Kate Monter in Avenue Q. Photo Credit Darren Bell

Jacqueline Tate (Christmas Eve) and Lucie-Mae Sumner (Kate Monster). Photo © Darren Bell

Unlike spiritual cousin Sesame Street, Avenue Q doesn’t hide its puppeteers so much as celebrate them, with the operators openly emoting alongside their charges. For the puppet performers, a part in Avenue Q must be akin to patting your head while rubbing your stomach, to the nth degree.

The actors bringing Princeton, Rod, Kate, Trekkie, Lucy and Nicky to life have to provide the funny voices while animating a character, singing and dancing alongside the all-human Brian, Christmas Eve and Gary, and timing the gags to perfection. The energetic young cast makes it look easy, especially Tom Steedon (Princeton/Rod) and Lucie-Mae Sumner (Kate Monster/Lucy The Slut), who are sometimes required to have conversations with themselves. Craft and talent, though, mean we’re usually focusing on the puppets rather than their masters.

It is particularly hard to look away from the puppets during a disgracefully entertaining scene of Kate and Princeton, er, exploring one another (lack of bottom halves proving no impediment). Ellena Vincent, all the while, is belting out You Can Be As Loud As The Hell You Want (When You’re Making Love) with aplomb. Also showing off a fine set of pipes is Jacqueline Tate during the hilariously poignant The More You Love Someone, The More You Want To Kill Them.

The band is hidden in the unseen interiors of Avenue Q, but musical director Daniel Griffin and his six-strong outfit keep things swinging.

A musical which manages to be as funny as it is insightful, with engaging characters, brilliant performances, fine musicianship and excellent staging, Sell A Door’s production can’t be faulted. If you’ve never seen it, go. If you’ve already been to Avenue Q, go again. Like me, you may want to move in.

Running time 1 hour 50 minutes (including one interval)
King’s Theatre, 2 Leven Street, EH3 9LQ
Tue 1- Sat 14 June
Daily 7.30pm; Matinee Saturday 2.30pm
Tickets from: www.edtheatres.com/avenueq
Tour website: www.selladoor.com/whats-on/avenue-q/

Avenue Q on tour 2014:
10-14 June Edinburgh
King’s Theatre
0131 529 6000 Book online
17-18 June Inverness
Eden Court
01463 239 841 Book online
19-21 June Buxton
Opera House
0131 529 6000 Book online
23-25 June High Wycombe
Swan Theatre
01494 512 000 Book online
26-28 June Crawley
The Hawth Theatre
01293 553 636 Book online
1-5 July Blackpool
The Grand
01253 290 190 Book online
7-9 July Poole
0844 406 8666 Book online
10-13 July Lincoln
Theatre Royal
01522 519 999 Book online
14-16 July Sunderland
0191 556 1040 Book online
17-19 July Winchester
Theatre Royal
01962 840 440 Book online
21-23 July St Helen’s
Theatre Royal
01744 756 000 Book online
24-26 July Lichfield
Garrick Theatre
01543 412 121 Book online
28-30 July Croydon
Fairfield Halls
020 8688 9291 Book online
31 July- 2 August Guildford
0844 7701 797 Book online
The cast of Sell A Door's 2014 five star tour of Avenue Q. Photo Credit Darren Bell

The cast of Sell A Door’s 2014 five star tour of Avenue Q. Photo © Darren Bell


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  1. Avenue Q : All Edinburgh Theatre.com | May 10 2016