Avenue Q ~ Malvern Theatres

Reviewed by Helen McWilliams

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The latest tour of ‘Avenue Q’ has pitched up at Malvern Theatres, this week and it’s a ‘must see’ to cheer up dull autumnal nights. Premiering on Broadway in 2003, this innovative ‘adult’ musical has been delighting audiences ever since and last night’s performance only served to demonstrate that it remains as popular as ever and can also draw in new audiences, too.

It was my first time entering the world of ‘Avenue Q’ (cue innuendoes which would not be out of place in the script) I was familiar with the soundtrack and I’d seen a few scenes, already, but otherwise I had no idea what to expect from a musical containing adult themes from puppets. What I witnessed was a fast-paced cornucopia of talent as the skilled ensemble played out an honest and tantalisingly naughty tale.

The story revolves around Princeton (one of the puppets, performing courtesy of the superb Richard Lowe) who has moved to ‘Avenue Q’ to find his purpose and along the way befriends fellow puppets;  Nicky, Rod, porn-obsessed Trekkie Monster and Katie Monster (who becomes Princeton’s love interest). Added to the mix are humans; Christmas Eve (a Japanese therapist with no clients), her fiancé Brian (a wannabe comedian) and Gary Coleman from ‘Different Strokes'(!). What ensues is a chaotic meander through their lives which includes unemployment, the use of the internet, requited or unrequited love and input from the bad idea bears (they’re right, beer is always a good idea – isn’t it?) and Lucy the Slut (a favourite of Trekkie Monster’s from porn films!).

Moving the show along are numbers such as ‘It Sucks To Be Me’, ‘If You Were Gay’, ‘The Internet Is For Porn’ and the more subtle ‘There’s a Fine, Fine Line’. All of the tunes are catchy, mostly with smutty under-tones (some more overt than others!) and it’s an overall laugh-a-minute piece of theatre. Joining Richard Lowe, who also works with Rod, is Sarah Harlington who seamlessly swaps between Katie Monster and Lucy the Slut and has an exceptional singing voice. Then there’s outstanding performances from Richard Morse as Brian and Arina II as Christmas Eve, as well as Stephen Arden who worked Trekkie Monster and Nicky in addition to one of the bad idea bears, no mean feat. Working in tandem (at certain times) with Arden was Jessica Parker, and the pair were in synch at all times, they were a formidable duo, indeed they demonstrated this even more so when they both play the bad idea bears.  A special mention must go to Etisyai Phillip who played Gary Coleman in act one and was a joy, it was a pity that she could not carry on with the show after the interval, but the role was in safe hands with Cleopatra Joseph who took over. Well done to both ladies!

The set is innovative in itself, it offers windows into each resident’s home and also turns into the nightclub which plays host to Lucy the Slut’s show. Congratulations to set designer, Richard Evans for creating such a ‘Pandora’s box’.

To book tickets to see the show in Malvern, please visit their website for details : http://www.malvern-theatres.co.uk/ or to find out where the subsequent stops are for ‘Avenue Q’ use this link: http://avenuequk.com/tour-dates

Please note this show is not suitable for Little Monsters!

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