Committing to review a show that you adore is a risk, especially a show you saw ten years ago, obsessed over, bought the soundtrack, played it a hundred times over and to which you know almost every word. Thankfully, Avenue Q (at the New Wimbledon Theatre this week, currently on UK tour) entirely paid off, with a production of such quality that I have fallen in love with it all over again.
Avenue Q tells the story of a recent college graduate, Princeton, who struggles to find his purpose when he moves into his first shabby New York apartment on Avenue Q. His neighbours, including Kate (the kindergarten-teaching girl next door), Rod (the closeted Republican), Trekkie (the internet ‘sexpert’ (for which read ‘pervert’)), help him along the way. Played with a combined cast of real-life actors, puppets and unconcealed (but ignored) puppeteers, this irreverent musical won multiple awards for its script and score and had a successful ten-year run in London’s West End.
This new touring production is well worth a watch even to the most dedicated fan. Rudeness is ramped up to the max (do NOT see it with a prude) and the young cast’s energy is entirely infectious, but based on performances of the highest order. The quality of singing is outstanding across the board, but particularly from Cecily Redman (Kate/Lucy the Slut) and Saori Oda (Christmas Eve). Redman’s rendition of “A fine fine line” made me realise that a puppet can bring you to tears. Oda’s talents clearly go far beyond her role but are allowed to shine through in small surprising moments such as Christmas Eve & Brian’s casual 30-second dance break in the midst of the second half. The central cast, all juggling multiple characters, were ably abetted on stage and behind the scenes by further multi-talented singers/puppeteers (especially for Trekkie in “The Internet is for Porn” and into the audience in “Give us your Money”)
My only criticism is that the on-stage screens were too small, so that the clearly high-quality animated visuals appeared cramped. This is a touring production, however, so may be down to the individual venue. This also means that, if you’re based in London, be quick and go and see it at Wimbledon this week! For the rest of you, find a date near you. This is West End quality, and a treat for new audiences and old fans alike.
[Images: Matt Martin]