**** 4 Stars
” A Charming, Life Affirming Puppet Journey”
It’s hard to believe that “Avenue Q” the Broadway and west end smash hit musical turns 16 years of age this year and infact only closed on Broadway at the New Stages on the 26th May this year.
Selladoor have revived there previous touring production and brought the puppets back to life for a brand new UK tour and what a Charming, life affirming puppet journey it is. Telling the story of Princeton, a bright-eyed graduate who comes to New York City with big dreams and a tiny bank account. Brian the out-of-work comedian and his therapist fiancée Christmas Eve; Nicky the good-hearted slacker and his closet gay Republican roommate Rod, an Internet ‘sexpert’ called Trekkie Monster, Lucy the Slut and a very cute kindergarten teacher named Kate Monster. This is in essence an adult version of life on Sesame Street, and although the puppets clearly owe much to Jim Henson’s Muppets the programme makes clear there is no formal connection between them.
What Makes Avenue Q unique is the puppeteers are unconcealed there in full view of the audience for the entire production many of them perform two puppets and its an amazing ability to disappear behind the puppet and have us focus on the puppet character itself. All the puppeteers in this production succeed with this in a very talented way. Special mention must go to Lawrence Smith as Princeton/Rod his vocal talent imbues both puppets with completely unique and individual characters and brings them to life with ease. The same applies to Cecily Redman as Kate/Lucy her voice is impressive as she moves seamlessly between accents and her performance of “It’s a fine line” which closes the first act is an emotional and tender moment. The cast deliver some of the catchiest tunes in musical theatre including, Avenue Q, The Internet is for Porn and Schadenfreude with great style.
The company truly mine the comedy of Jeff Whitty’s book and Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx’s music and lyrics to great effect and Cressida Carre takes on Directing and Chorographic duties and delivers well really getting under the skin of how humans interact with Puppets and make it all seem utterly real. The production elements also shine Richard Evans set design owes much to the original concept of the show but gives a more cartoon type feel, with animations being screened on two big plasma screens high above the stage to great effect. Charles Morgan Jones has given the show a sumptuous lighting design that makes it glow in all the right place while retaining great atmosphere and Chris Bogs sounds design comes to the fore especially as the live band are tucked away off stage rather than in the pit. Paul Jomain has designed the puppets for this production and while they clearly are inspired by the Henson Muppet factory as its very easy to draw comparisons to Bert and Ernie and indeed Cookie Monster he has blended a more cartoonish style to them that adds additional charm.
Avenue Q was cutting edge when it arrived on stage all those years ago, with the adult language, sexual references and tackling social issues around sexuality, finding love and belonging in the world. Its fair to say its lost most of the edge morphing in more a joyful and caring celebration of humanity in all it forms. It remains a very warm hearted piece of musical theatre that takes very gifted performers to pull off. So why not head to the King’s and take a trip down Avenue Q its a journey that will have you leaving theatre with a huge smile, truly excellent stuff!
Selladoor presents Avenue Q, King’s Theatre Edinburgh, Runs until Saturday 1st June, for tickets go to: http://www.capitaltheatres.com/whats-on/avenueq The UK tour continues and will call at the King’s Theatre Glasgow from 25th June.