Review: Avenue Q
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REVIEW: Avenue Q at The Mayflower, Southampton – 11th April 2016
Winchester Today’s Beccy Conway tries to remember they’re just puppets!
Having grown up loving Sesame Street, as I take my seat in the Mayflower auditorium I’m concerned that I may be about to see things I can never un-see. With a reputation for being lewd, rude and a little bit bonkers, Avenue Q is one of Broadway’s longest running productions, and its cast is made up predominantly of puppets, so it’s safe to say I’m unsure what to expect.
Princeton kicks off the show, dressed in a graduation cap and gown and questioning what he can do with a B.A. in English. I empathise with the puppet immediately (something I never thought I’d say). As an English graduate myself, I’ve since become quite accustomed to the look of ‘and what are you going to do with that?’
Richard Lowe, Princeton’s puppeteer, is charismatic and the skill with which he executes Princeton’s mannerisms is faultless. The same can be said for Jessica Parker who operates puppet Kate Monster. It’s only during the interval that I remember Parker is standing-in as Kate; the effortlessness she exhibits as she shifts between the voices of Kate and the unfortunately-named Lucy the Slut is remarkable.
The puppeteers don’t attempt ventriloquism, but instead act alongside their puppet counterparts which only adds to the hilarity. We find ourselves trying to stifle our laughter behind our hands as the cast belt out such numbers as If You Were Gay and Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist, drawing on subjects that shouldn’t ordinarily be funny but in this masterclass in satire they just are.
Avenue Q – Where the Puppets Steal the Show
Every single actor-puppeteer has their performance down to an art-form, even during moments of puppet/puppeteer on-stage transitions, when the actors have to seamlessly switch characters mid-scene. The whole show is slick and, more importantly, looks like the best fun to be involved in, an observation supported by the fact that many of the cast are on their second or third Avenue Q tours.
Undeniably, it is designer Paul Jomain’s puppets who make this production unique. A veteran of the infamous Jim Henson Company with a prior background in model-making, Jomain’s puppets steal the show. Bolstered by Dean McDermott and his live band, Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx’s music and lyrics demonstrate musical comedy at its best (plus I’m now even more desperate to see The Book of Mormon, another of Lopez’s smash-hit creations).
With just the right amount of bad taste, laugh-out-loud comedy and phenomenal vocals, Avenue Q is a manifestation of an existential crisis in puppet form, and if that doesn’t make you want to book tickets I don’t know what will… just maybe don’t go and see it with your grandma.