From the moment the posters went up advertising Avenue Q as Sesame Street for adults, I have been eagerly anticipating its arrival at the Noël Coward Theatre. And as it turns out, that description could not be more apt.
It plays as a coming-of-age story for young adults, poking fun at but also addressing semi-seriously the issues of leaving university and entering the daily grind, the anxieties of finding someone to love and also being comfortable in one’s own skin. It is sexually explicit in the funniest possible way and occasionally foul-mouthed but that just adds to the charm and the sense of realism that drives the show forward, even though it is puppets we are dealing with.
The cast are just astonishing. Working so incredibly hard, delivering their lines and songs and manipulating puppets (in some cases, pulling double duty as more than one puppet character). They are so good, part of me wanted to watch them acting rather than the puppets, so I will clearly have to go again so I can satisfy this urge. Jon Robyns is very very appealing as hero of the story Princeton and closeted banker Rod, with such a charming manner about him and a strong singing voice; Simon Lipkin is great fun as the porn-obsessed Trekkie Monster and gay-friendly Nicky; Ann Harada reprises her turn as Christmas Eve clearly comfortable in the role, but the hands down winner of the evening is Julie Atherton.
She plays the sweet heroine Kate Monster with an wide-eyed innocence and desperation to be loved that is so endearing, but then she also covers the role of Lucy the Slut, think an x-rated Miss Piggy, with a sultry, smokey-voiced abandon. At one point, these two characters have a conversation and it is mightily impressive to watch Atherton manage it so effortlessly (with someone else holding one of the puppets I should add). Truly a star is born here, I predict big things for Ms Atherton, not least my undying attention for the foreseeable future 😉
Lyrically, it is incredibly witty, like laugh-out-loud funny on several occasions in most every song. ‘What Do You Do With A BA In English’, ‘If You Were Gay’, ‘The Internet Is For Porn’ are all brilliant although ‘Everyone’s A Little Bit Racist’ probably sneaks into top position as it is so very true even in its most acerbically witty observations.
I feel like I could go on writing for days about this show so I will stop here, but this has to be one of the best new musicals that has arrived in London for quite some time. I cannot recommend it highly enough and I very much imagine I will be back for more.