Winner of the Tony Awards triple-crown for Best Musical, Best Score and Best Book, Avenue Q, the Sesame Street-esque production, is back in Perth and delighting crowds at Crown Casino.
Avenue Q is the brain child of Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx, who grew up in the 70s being entertained and educated by Sesame Street and a world of colourful puppet characters. Years later, when they searched for an idea for what was originally envisioned to be a television show, they had an epiphany and thought what if we create an adult puppet show, like Sesame Street but with the goal of entertainment rather than education?
What followed was a hilarious, witty, sometimes crude, but always funny story where puppets, monsters and humans rub shoulders on a fictional run-down New York street called Avenue Q.
The show opens with our protagonist Princeton, the fresh-faced college graduate lamenting “What Do You Do With A BA in English,” who now has all the knowledge but no experience and no job to pay the bills.
Having started on Avenue A, Princeton has worked his way right up to Avenue Q because he hasn’t managed to find an apartment he can afford. Arriving on Avenue Q he is greeted by the superintendent who turns out to be child-star Gary Coleman (played by Zuleika Khan), from Different Strokes fame.
Gary Coleman is the perfect character to explore the notion behind Avenue Q – that life is so much simpler as a child and more appealing than adulthood when you realise that perhaps you aren’t so special after all. For those who don’t know the backstory of Gary Coleman, he peaked early in life, achieving fame in a sitcom as a child but as an adult ended up bankrupt and sued his parents for misappropriation of his assets.
The fun begins as Princeton moves into Avenue Q and meets all his neighbours who all have their own trials and tribulations to contend with.
You will notice the similarity between the characters of Avenue Q and Sesame Street. There are the male friends Nicky and closet gay Rod who share a distinct resemblance to Burt and Ernie; and Trekkie Monster who, like Cookie Monster, has an obsessive personality but it is porn, not cookies that take his fancy.
There are many catchy and amusing songs throughout the production that stick in your head long after the final curtain. “It Sucks To Be Me,” is the first big opening number and has the characters fighting over who’s life is the worst. “Everyone’s A Little Bit Racist” and “The Internet Is For Porn,” will have you twittering in amusement.
“You Can Be As Loud As The Hell You Want (When Your’re Makin’ Love)” features puppet nudity, leaves you feeling slightly uncomfortable and reminds us this show is not suitable for children, but late teens will probably get away with it.
Hats off to the casts who all gave solid performances. Not only do they need to deliver their performances with comic timing, but they need to have rhythm, be able to bust out a good vocal number and half of them need to operate a puppet all at the same time. That’s no mean feat!
To make things even harder, four of the actors (Ross Hannaford, Amberly Cull, Vincent Cooper and Lulu McClatchy) voice and operate two or three puppets throughout the show. I am not sure what the creators’ motivation for this was, but it’s certainly interesting to watch. I particularly enjoyed watching Cull playing the sweet and naïve Kat Monster and then moments later in the same scene playing Lucy the Slut, flicking her hair and moving with every inch of seductress a puppet can muster!
Though the show might not deliver us all the answers to life’s problems it does leave us with a couple of musical numbers that give us a way to cope. “Schandenfreude” German for enjoying other’s misfortunes reminds us that there is always someone in a worse situation than ourselves which can make us feel better. “The Money Song” reminds us that through giving to others we can take much comfort and the final number “For Now,” teaches us that all in life is fleeting, both the good and the bad experiences and it is just part of life’s journey. (I enjoyed the added reference to current affairs with the quip that even President Trump is fleeting)!
Avenue Q is a great show for anyone who has every wished they could return to their easy college days or indeed anyone that enjoys a good laugh and doesn’t take life too seriously.
AVENUE Q The Musical
Venue: Crown Theatre Perth
Dates: 26 November – 10 December 2016