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AVENUE Q – Greenwich Theatre, London.

Avenue QTony Award winning musical Avenue Q is the perfect tonic to a miserable rainy evening. Sell A Door Theatre Company’s latest UK Tour, directed by Cressida Carré, is as strong and joyous as the West End production that ran in London for 5 years. There is no other show in the world that will cheer you up, make you laugh and warm your heart as much as this one.

Conceived by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx, who also wrote the Music & Lyrics, with Book by Jeff Whitty, Avenue Q is an irreverent look at the pitfalls of adult life. With puppets. The residents of Avenue Q, New York City, a mix of characters both human and otherwise, deal with a whole spectrum of issues that are somewhat taboo in normal society. Relationship troubles, unemployment, racism and homosexuality are talked and sung about in a way that is both poignant and laugh-out-loud funny.

Filled with swearing and not so subtle innuendo, Sesame Street this is not, but despite its adult humour and risqué jokes, it manages to capture a playfulness not often found in life post-college. Although mildly offensive at times, the tone is pitched just right and everything is said and done in good humour. It’s amazing what you can get away with when you’re fuzzy and cute!

Princeton (Richard Lowe), newly graduated and eager to find his purpose in life, moves into the neighbourhood. He meets and hits it off with Kate Monster (Sarah Harlington) but their budding romance hits a snag however in the form of raunchy singer Lucy the Slut (also Harlington).

Brian (Richard Morse) and Christmas Eve (Arina Il) are trying to find employment while planning a wedding, while Rod (Lowe) is hiding, not very successfully, a secret from his roommate Nicky (Stephen Arden). There’s Gary Coleman (Yes, that one! Played by Etisyai Philip – Pleasingly, this production reverts to the original trope of casting a woman in this role) who has fallen from child superstar to become the building’s superintendent and lastly, and perhaps most outrageously, there’s porn-obsessed recluse Trekkie Monster (Arden). The whole lot of them are very endearing, and everyone will be able to relate to at least one problem they face.

The four puppeteers are remarkable, each performing dual roles and switching between characters effortlessly. Special mention to Jessica Parker, serving as Nicky/Trekkie’s ‘left arm’ as well as playing several other peripheral characters, her role in the smooth running of the show is pivotal. It is testament to their skills, both technical and acting-wise, that you quickly forget you’re watching puppets at all, subconsciously projecting the actors’ mannerisms and facial expressions onto the puppets. The colourful people, monsters and foul-mouthed fluffy teddy bears come to life and are, somewhat surprisingly, completely lovable.

Avenue Q is witty and heart-warming, with great songs that will be stuck in your head for days. I had forgotten just how brilliant this show is, this production has reminded me. It will make you happy, and remind you not to always take life so seriously.

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Reviewed 14/05/2015

 By Catherine Duffy

12th – 24th May 2015
Greenwich Theatre, London SE10 8ES.

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