““Everything in life is only for now”
There’s no show really that best typifies my love for the theatre, and specifically my love for London theatregoing, than Avenue Q. From its arrival at the Noël Coward Theatre in 2006, this was a show I fell head over heels for from the opening song and one that has provided constant pleasure to me ever since. Looking back, I think this counts up as my seventh visit to the show, plus one special Valentine’s Day cabaret show, and like every relationship it has had its ups and downs, but ultimately that’s only made my love for the show stronger and I was really pleased to be able to squeeze in one last visit to the final Friday afternoon show to bid it ‘furwell’.
As if I couldn’t have loved this show more, the grace and humour with which the closing notices were announced just melted my heart. I’ve borrowed images of the set of posters from the Avenue Q Facebook page and posted them here to show you what I mean, I particularly love the ‘Available for Panto from 30 October’ line, it is so typical of the humour of the show and whoever has been in charge of the publicity should be commended for keeping a sense of humour throughout. The YouTube clip at the bottom is also well worth a watch.
Regarding my feelings for the actual show, my review of the last time I saw it in June this year captures it rather well, but should you be so inclined you can read my collected thoughts of previous shows here, here, here, here, and my first time here.
As I’ve said before, I really do think it is one of the best new musicals of the last ten years, full stop. Witty, moving, clever, relevant, I could go on for days about the ways in which I love it. I particularly love the way that my reaction to the show has subtly changed as I’ve gotten older: on first viewing, its resonance was all about the career/life perspective, not having been in London long and with no career path in mind, I knew just how Princeton felt (although my song went What Do You Do With A M.A. Hons (SocSci) in Economic & Social History, a slightly less catchy title!) but seeing it now, it is the relationship side of things that rings more true, especially in Kate Monster’s frustration at the friends vs lovers distinction and the ambiguity of its ending with her one-day-at-a-time approach. But it is also funny how so many random lines from the show have entered my vocabulary: ‘I’m not being defensive’ in a shrill voice is a favourite, as is the simple ‘Yaaayyyyy!’ and I cannot hear the words mix tape without breaking into song, it really has had quite the impact on me!
In terms of this particular show, it was nice to finally see both Tom Parsons and Paul Spicer in the leading male roles alongside Cassidy Janson, as ‘man flu’ had taken care of both of them last time (meaning we got to sample understudies Alan Pearson and Sam Harrison’s delights, both of whom really impressed I must say), adding a nice sense of completeness to the whole experience. Maybe it’s a bit of a rose-tinted view and I’m still swept up in the emotion of it all, but this trio of leads really did seem to come close to matching the dream-team of the original cast of Julie Atherton, Jon Robyns and Simon Lipkin who were a huge part of why I was so crazy for this production when it opened.
Spicer’s Princeton was strong-voiced and his Rod deliciously camp, but I really did love Tom Parsons’ performances as Trekkie, Nicky and a stoned-sounding Bad Idea Bear, I don’t know if he was being particularly expansive as it was the end of the run but he was giving it quite some welly all the way through the show and almost certainly trying to make his fellow cast members laugh. Janson impressed me yet again and I really do look forward to seeing what she, and indeed the others in the cast, decides to do next. So many of them have been great fun to follow on Twitter (even if Mr Parsons is overly threatened by my worship of his girlfriend!!) being beautifully frank about their experiences and this bittersweet ending, so if you are on there, get following them.
A UK tour of the show has been announced starting in Bath in February next year, though confirmed details for subsequent venues are still scarce, I think Norwich and Sheffield will be the next places it visits but no casting news has been publicised as of yet. Still, it is good that the show will be touring, there’s definitely life outside the West End as the huge success of the Spamalot tour is currently showing and this is a most deserving show.
Uniquely, in terms of musicals that have risen to the level of absolute classics in my personal pantheon, I have been able to trace the journey of Avenue Q right from the beginning: from the buzz on the internet, dodgy YouTube clips, to the first posters being put up on the Underground, to finally seeing it live and just being blown away. I bought the soundtrack as I left the theatre and the rest is well-documented history on here.
Other shows that have that status for me (for better or for worse) like Les Misérables and Joseph have always been in my life, whether its the cassettes of the soundtracks playing on long family journeys in the car, high school productions or being taken to the theatre as a young boy, I don’t necessarily remember the first time hearing and/or seeing them, they’ve just been present as music that I loved and listened to all the time and so to go through that process with Avenue Q as an adult, to grow to really love a show, have its music become part of the fabric of my regular listening and to share that enthusiasm with so many others on my numerous trips, has been a genuine pleasure.
And despite needing a break from the show for a wee while, seeing it again this year reminded me of just how much I adore it and I am so glad that I made it one last time, even though the end of ‘For Now’ was simply heartbreaking: “…this show is only for now…”
Farewell Avenue Q, you will be missed xx