The producers of this show are upfront in the programme: they are on a mission to make live theatre attractive to the screen addicted social network generation, and they believe Avenue Q is the kind of show that will appeal to a younger demographic. I certainly don’t fit that description so, bearing that in mind, I took along my 21 year old daughter with me to see the show and get a second opinion.
How best to describe Avenue Q – a Sesame Street musical for adults perhaps? The show was co-created by Jeff Marx and Bobby Lopez who met in the late 1990s at a musical theatre workshop in New York and it opened off Broadway in 2002 to rave reviews. It has the wisecracking high energy of the Muppets but takes it to a different level with its subject matter and language.
Instead of Miss Piggy, you get Lucy the Slut and instead of Muppet madcap zany humour, you get a load of racist, sexist gags and songs and some full on sex thrown in, albeit featuring two furry puppets rather than real people. Well, whatever turns you on I suppose and, judging by the gales of laughter, it obviously turned on a lot of people. Me, I found it all a bit boring, dated and decidedly unfunny and so did my daughter. We weren’t alone – an elderly couple walked out just after the “sex” scene and there were a number of people around us who seemed just as mystified as we were at what was amusing the rest of the audience. It seems to be one of those shows you either love or hate and I’m afraid I’m one of the latter.
I suppose when it first came out, it was considered unusual and controversial in the way it references issues such as pornography, homosexuality and racism but it felt a bit like watching some old 70s sitcom, the jokes were so ancient and non pc.
There are a couple of really good songs – There’s a Fine Fine Line could hold its own with some of the top musical numbers – if only Lucie Mae Sumner was able to sing it in a normal voice and not in a high pitched puppet squeak. The More You Ruv Someone could also be a great number if they ditched the awful stereotypical cod Japanese pronunciation. The good points – there is an off stage live band and the energetic cast of singers and puppeteers move it along at a fast pace (not fast enough for my liking though!)
Special mention is warranted to the very talented Lucie Mae Sumner as Kate Monster/Lucy the Slut and Stephen Arden as Nicky/Trekkie Monster/Bad Idea Bear. Hats off also to Sell a Door Theatre Company for trying to bring a new audience to the theatre but I’m not sure if you found the right vehicle for it this time.