You are not likely to have seen a puppet show like Avenue Q before.
This Tony award winning musical is a satirical yet warm-hearted take on the children’s TV show Sesame Street. It is peppered with colorful language, political incorrectness, pop culture references, and squarely aimed at the 20 and 30 something’s who grew up with the TV show.
This is what happened when the Sesame Street characters grew up and faced the world.
Avenue Q is in a down market NYC neighborhood and inhabited by a bizarre and eclectic bunch of puppets and humans. There is Trekkie Monster, the internet porn addict with a secret; easy going knockabout Nicky, who rooms with Rod, an investment banker struggling with a secret; Kate Monster, a sweet kindergarten assistant, out-of-work human comedian Brian and his Asian American fiancé Christmas Eve - a therapist who struggles to find patients. Oh, and Gary "What you talkin’ ‘bout Willis?" Coleman, the building superintendent. (Why not?)
Fresh faced college grad Princeton (Mitchell Butel) arrives here after discovering the rents in Avenues A-P are out of his price range, and sets out on a journey to find his purpose in life. No one is particularly happy with their lot at Avenue Q but everyone is getting by with a bit of help, and maybe sex, from their friends and some pithy, poignant and often outrageous observances.
Avenue Q presents its adult themes in the childlike manner of the original Sesame St without ever being childish. Jeff Whitty’s sharply observed script and Robert Lopez’ and Jeff Marx’s lyrics hit all the right notes without being sordid or smutty. There is no angst-ridden navel gazing here, no serious self-importance. Just an intimate musical that is smart, funny and occasionally provocative. The bright and breezy songs are often outrageous in content but presented so charmingly that even numbers such as the The Internet is for Porn (‘grab your dick and double click!’) don’t offend.
Unlike traditional puppet shows, the actors are not hidden from audience view. They actively portray the characters stuck on their arms and this presents interesting challenges for both actor and audience. It would be easy for the actors to overshadow the puppet performances with their own, particularly as these are very low-tech puppets with a limited range of expression. This talented cast achieve just the right balance, giving the puppets their own rich lives.
Mitchell Butel is exceptional in the roles of Princeton and Rod. He is an irresistible presence on stage, with strong physicality and affable charm. As Rod, desperately trying to maintain his secret in My Girlfriend lives in Canada, he is hilarious.
Luke Joslin’s Trekkie Monster is a complete delight; downright dirty but never offensive.
Michala Banas gives a sweet and beautifully measured performance as Kate Monster, while Christina O’Neill’s performance of When you Ruv Someone is a vocal standout.
Musically and vocally the show is tight with a strong ensemble belting out numbers, juggling puppets and performing confidently Nathan Wright’s economical and effective choreography.
Jonathan Biggin’s direction is smart and slick, moving actors and puppets around the stage seamlessly and maintaining the right pace and tenor throughout.
Avenue Q appeals to the adult sensibility and the inner child. It is guaranteed to warm your cockles.
Venue: The Comedy Theatre, 240 Exhibition St, Melbourne
Dates: Thursday 4 June – Sunday 28 June
Times: Tuesday 7pm, Wednesday – Saturday 8pm, Sunday 7.30pm
Matinees: Saturday 2pm & Sunday 3pm
Tickets: Tuesday $44.90 ‐ $64.90, Wednesday, Thursday, Sunday & Matinees $59.90 ‐ $79.90, Friday & Saturday $74.90 ‐ $99.90
Bookings: www.ticketek.com.au or 132 849