After nine years, two UK tours, countless cast changes and entry into the mainstream, Avenue Q has lost none of its knowing charm and insightful wit.
First, a quick confession – this was my third trip to see Avenue Q, and I was a little worried. I’ve loved this show and raved about it for years. Going back to a beloved piece is always tinged with slight trepidation for me – on the one hand, it’s great to see an ‘old friend,’ but on the other there’s always the risk that one won’t find the jokes as funny, the production won’t be as slick and the content has become somewhat tired… I should probably save my fretting for more important issues, but hey, that’s just me.
The first time I saw it (like many in the audience even today) I had no real idea what I was in for. It was my 22nd birthday and, back from uni, I’d gone as a treat with my parents. I still squirm when I remember sitting with my mother to my left and father to my right as two muppets had rampant sex on stage to the song ‘You can be as loud as the hell you want when you’re making love’. Where does one look in such a situation?!
Despite this discomfort though, I was hooked. This musical happily skips over most of the problems and controversies of Generation Y, breezing through love, porn, homosexuality, racism and how on earth one pays the bills with a BA in English with a lightness of touch that is quite masterful.
The use of puppets disarms the audience and allows them to listen to the songs rather than making judgements on the characters (I’m sure that if Trekkie Monster was a lonely human recluse rather than a furry Sesame Street reject,’The Internet is for Porn’ would make far more uncomfortable viewing…).
Whilst I was concerned that it all may seem a little dated now, I left the theatre last night convinced that this show can stand the test of time. Yes, we all get less shockable by the day but this show has survived because it has real heart – ‘A Fine, Fine Line‘ still had me nearly in tears and the Bad Idea Bears’ mischievous devil-on-your-shoulder ways was an the element that I started to appreciate more on viewing number three.
I read an article this morning on re-reading your favourite books, and it mentioned how the best books grow with you – reading The Great Gatsby, for example, is a totally different experience when done aged 25 than at age 50. Though I’ve only got from 22 to 27 since my ‘Avenue Q enlightenment,’ different parts of it seem more relevant now, and the fact that the first time I saw it one line (since updated) was “George Bush is only for now,” shows that the world has changed a fair bit since then too.
This production certainly does Avenue Q justice. Timing and vocals are great from a scarily young cast (the two leads Sam Lupton and Katharine Moraz are only 21 and 23 respectively), the set seems almost entirely unchanged from the London incarnation, and the book is so snappy that to the casual observer there seems to be very little room for major directorial changes anyhow (though I’m sure those who have been behind the scenes would beg to differ). Recommended to one and all – even my parents remember it with fondness.
Long live Avenue Q!
Avenue Q is now touring the UK, click here for tour dates near you.