AVENUE Q – New Wimbledon Theatre, London.
Since its departure from the West End in 2010, Sell A Door’s touring production has been the only noticeable place to catch a glimpse of the characters on Avenue Q for the last 2 years. It all kicked off back in 2014 when we first reviewed the show, at which point the excitement at having this show back in our lives accounted for the majority of our enjoyment. That, twinned with a very talented cast, encouraged a rave review.
So, has much really changed since then? Avenue Q is so gloriously (and intentionally) formulaic that there’s little any creative team can do to interpret it in a unique way. But new cast members sprinkle fresh energy into the show, and the score is still as delightfully crude as ever. This particular cast combo are vocally adept, particularly Sarah Harlington’s powerful rendition of ‘There’s a Fine, Fine Line’. Stephen Arden as Trekkie/Nicky/Bad Idea Bear has one of the most difficult vocal and puppeteering jobs, which he handles very well, and as a result really stands out.
Technically, this production needs tightening. Sound cues were missed and lighting cues often didn’t quite hit their mark. Mistakes happen of course, but in a show like Avenue Q that, although brash, actually relies on quite nuanced technical timing to deliver the joke, these kinds of mistakes can be fatal.
Being written 14 years ago, the book feels out of touch with today and could do with a bit of a re-fresh. Of course, we were treated to the updated version of ‘For Now’ which almost always references an American politician of the time (I’ll leave you to guess who they chose!) but references to “mix-tapes”, not to mention the ongoing Gary Coleman joke, fall totally flat. In fact, if you removed the Coleman character altogether the show wouldn’t suffer for it. That isn’t to take anything away from Etisyai Philip, who does a fine job with the role.
In short, this is still a must-see show. It’s funny, touching…and despite being now overshadowed by one of Lopez’s more recent bodies of work (The Book of Mormon), it still offers something that no other show does. Sex-puppetry. Go and see it.
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By Caroline Cronin