Tag Archives: Touring Shows

Avenue Q – touring the UK & Ireland until 28th July 2012

Ed Judge (Brian), Nicky, Matt Henry (Gary), Sam Lupton (Princeton). Photo credit Nick Spratling

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?!

Trekkie Monster. Photo credit - Nick Spratling

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.

Katharine Moraz as Lucy the Slut Photo credit Nick Spratling

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.

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Tell Me on a Sunday – Richmond Theatre (currently touring)

Claire Sweeney appears miscast in the Lloyd Webber song cycle. A pretty fatal problem for a one-woman show…

I have loved the title track to Tell Me on A Sunday for longer than I would like to remember. From the time my sixth-form singing teacher introduced it to me, it’s been one of those tunes that I’ve always been happy to be reminded of when it pops up on the shuffle setting.

Sadly, the production currently touring of the same name hasn’t left me with the same good memories. Richmond Theatre can be a funny place at the best of times – it’s a gorgeous building in a picturesque location, and is a sizeable venue which seems to have vast potential. Yet for some reason I have never seen a production there that excited me in the same way as even a mediocre example in the West End might. (Actually, I lie – my sister and I were extremely excited when we popped along to see Lee Mead in Lord Arthur Saville’s Crime, but that was just us unleashing the excitable and slightly embarassing teenagers within – no encouragement needed).

I would like to say something positive about this production. However, by the time the interval finally rolled around, I was so annoyed with the lack of genuine humour, over-use of bright blocks of colour in the staging and costumes (it just doesn’t work without the all-singing, all-dancing tongue-in-cheek style of Legally Blonde to create an excuse for such bad taste), plus the awkwardness of the lack of any form of on-stage companion, that even the appearance of my old favourite tune couldn’t rescue it.

The problem probably isn’t Sweeney herself – she makes the best of what she has been given to work with – but more that the whole concept of the show appears irrelevant. We live in a post-Bridget Jones world these days, but Sweeney’s ‘heroine’ left me thinking that old BJ (I hadn’t noticed the unfortunate initials before tonight) had had it good – at least she had mates and a bit of fun. All this woman did was wander around her apartment getting changed, moaning or fantasising about unreliable men and then singing the same song 4 times as she wrote emails to her mum on a horrific fuschia laptop. I had no idea how she had ended up in New York or why she hadn’t left yet. It was repetitive and dull, moving between songs and ’emotions’ with minimal explanations of whatever journey she was supposed to be experiencing.

The first run of TMOAS was in the early 80s, so it has some excuse for being dated, yet it has been extensively re-worked many times – including for Denise Van Outen in 2003 and again for Sweeney here. How much has been changed I’m not sure, but the fiddling appears to have drained out the heart that must once have existed in this show for the 1982 production to run for 781 performances.

So I’m afraid the report’s not good, and just to buck the trend I decided not to wait, but break the bad news on a Monday. From my bed. Where I would quite like to have been from the interval.

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