27-31 May 2014
Reviewed by Cathy Porteus
Avenue Q tells the story of Princeton – an English graduate making his first home in a down at heel New York neighbourhood. He meets the local characters, who are a mix of puppets and people. The puppets are piloted by real actors, who dress in black but can be seen. The actors’ facial expressions mimic those of the puppets and they blend into one entity as you watch. This isn’t a children’s play though, adult themes are tackled throughout.
Princeton’s search for his purpose in life is aided by love interest Kate Monster. As in all good tales, there are many obstacles in their love story, in particular Princeton’s attraction to alluring Lucy the Slut. At comedy characters Brian and Christmas Eve’s wedding, all relationships are pushed to breaking point. Room-mates Rod and Nicky fall out when Rod hears Nicky describe him as being in the closet. Princeton and Kate’s relationship is tested too. Will there be a happy ending for the Avenue Q puppets? You’ll have to go and see it yourself to find out.
Many musicals stick to safe topics – that certainly can’t be said of Avenue Q. The audience roared with laughter as the actors launched into pithy numbers such as “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist”, “The More you Love Someone, the More you Want to Kill Them” and “It Sucks to be Me”.
My favourite puppets were the Bad Idea Bears – a pair of cuddly looking teddies who helped other cast members make dubious life choices, such as downing a large number of cocktails, the night before a crucial day at work. They popped up at crucial moments and never failed to offer ‘useful’ advice.
Avenue Q occasionally showed its age – the song “Internet is for Porn” would probably have been more relevant when it opened a decade ago and “Mixtape” could perhaps now be updated to “iPod downloads” or similar. There were also a couple of jokes aimed more at a US audience, the UK viewers might not know the significance of being a Republican and I had to explain to my husband who building supervisor Gary Coleman was. This made some parts of the performance feel a bit like in jokes that not everyone could get.
On the whole though the show was entertaining and witty, the juxtaposition of the childish puppets swearing and tackling taboo issues made everyone chuckle throughout the evening.
The Palace Theatre is easy to get to by public transport, with bus stops and Oxford Road train station nearby. There are also a number of car parks near to the theatre with prices starting at around £1 an hour. The theatre has a slightly faded elegance with gilt painting and ornate mouldings. It was quite full, we were excited to see Coronation Street actress Cherylee Houston coming in to watch the show. I hope she enjoyed watching Avenue Q as much as we did. I would recommend this to anyone who wants to relax and laugh, as long as they aren’t easily offended by adult humour.
Tickets cost from £17.90 to £42.40 (plus £4 transaction fee).
Avenue Q is at the Palace Theatre, Manchester until 31 May 2014. For more information or to book tickets click here or call the box office on 0844 871 3019.
Palace Theatre, 97 Oxford Street, Manchester, M1 6FT | 0844 871 3019