Sell A Door is bringing Avenue Q back to the UK and Ireland from 2015 to 2016, and I was lucky enough to attend its run at Richmond Theatre last week. I’ve seen it a few times before, and let’s put it this way: if you don’t catch it while it’s on tour, It Sucks to be You!
The story follows a group of friends who live in Avenue Q: Princeton, a young, bright faced graduate looking to find his purpose in life; Kate Monster, a teaching assistant with big hopes; Rod and Nicky, friends without benefits; a whole other host of endearing if slightly racist characters and, of course, Gary Coleman. Oh, and did I mention some of the characters are puppets?
Having seen the show before, I found watching it a third time changed my perspective in a number of ways. The first time I saw Avenue Q, I started watching the actors but by the end was watching the puppets. The second time, I watched the puppets throughout. And this time, I pretty much watched the actors throughout. That’s not to say the puppetry wasn’t as good; the entire ensemble immersed themselves in the puppetry and their movement, particularly Stephen Arden’s Nicky who embodied the character. Rather, I watched the actors more this time because they were so skilled and expressive.
Staging wise, it’s a familiar set up: apartment blocks and a city skyline form the major set piece, with TV screens on each side of the stage showing clips during scene changes. As with all shows which reference pop culture, there are a few updates in the script and songs. The London production of Book of Mormon did this during the recent election, with Elder Cunningham’s pronunciation of Nigel Farage eliciting a lot of laughter. With Avenue Q, a notable one is ‘George Bush is only for now’ being changed to ‘David Cameron’. These don’t massively make sense for the characters to be saying, but they always produce a good response! My only criticism would be there are a few changes to the songs, but only if you know them well enough to notice. And yes, that means I’ve heard ‘Schadenfreude’ enough times to know that they’ve skipped a verse.
Leading the cast is Richard Lowe as Princeton and Rod, and he is utterly charismatic and endearing in both roles. A commanding performance, and I can easily see him going on to other leading roles after this, particularly a potential Elder Price. While I love the number ‘There’s a Fine, Fine Line’, I was never normally taken by the character of Kate for whatever reason. But Sarah Harlington completely changed my mind with her performance, bringing the character to life. Harlington also doubles as Lucy the Slut, and her transformation from one character to another in voice and energy is great to watch! Particularly when the two characters are talking to one another! Arden and the remaining supporting cast are all tremendous, making for a hilarious production. Although, maybe next time I won’t sit front row for Brian’s ‘Not Wearing Underwear Today’!
Verdict: It’s great to see Avenue Q back once again, and I now know what the Q stands for: Quotable, Quirky, and Quintessentially Quick-witted!
Avenue Q is touring the UK from 2015 through to 2016. For information on locations and tickets, visit their website.