Avenue Q at the Royal & Derngate Northampton Review

18-23 February 2019


Reviewed by Janine Rumble

Oh my goodness me! This must be the funniest, rudest and most laugh out loud hilarious show I have ever seen and I would urge everybody over the age of 16 to go and see the show if they can. I had heard of Avenue Q before, knew that it involved puppets and was a musical, but that was all I knew. I was completely unprepared for what I watched and wasn’t prepared to come out of the theatre singing songs from the show (they are very rude, funny and very catchy).

Avenue Q tells the story of a group of people and monsters who live on Avenue Q in New York. It tells the trials and tribulations of their lives through songs in a hilarious and sometimes poignant fashion. Avenue Q is based on the original concept by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx, who also wrote the music and lyrics and based on the book by Jeff Whitty and the orchestrations and arrangements are by Stephen Oremus. The puppets are very cleverly made by Paul Jomain and are worked by an amazing cast of performers who make the puppets believable as the characters that they portray.

The actors who play the various characters are multi-talented being able to sing, act and work the puppets, I especially applaud the actors who have to portray two characters at the same time, even more so when the same actress is portraying two characters who are having a conversation. How they can speak or sing in the different voices is mind blowing. The actors and actresses put in a full energetic performance from start to finish and you can see that this show is a real labour of love and enjoyment for each and every one of them. To begin with the actors dressed in black working the puppets and speaking their words is difficult to combine with the puppet, but by the end of the show, you see and believe that they are one and the same, amazing.

Avenue Q follows the main character, Princeton, played by Lawrence Smith, as he leaves college and begins life in the big city. He falls on hard times and finds himself living on Avenue Q along with other people and monsters. He meets and falls in love with Kate Monster, played by Cecily Redman, and we get to see the trials and tribulations of their romance, which is interrupted by Lucy the Slut, also played by Cecily Redman. We also get to meet Princeton’s Avenue Q neighbours, Rod, also played by Lawrence Smith, and his flatmate Nicky, played by Tom Steedon, Brian, played by Oliver Stanley, and his fiancé Christmas Eve, played by Saori Oda, and my favourite (and rudest) character Trekkie Monster, played hilariously by Tom Steedon. All are influenced by two bad idea bears, played by Tom Steedon and Megan Arstrong, in hilarious fashion. Megan Armstrong also plays Mrs T, Kate Monster’s cranky boss. All of the buildings are looked after by the superintendent, Gary Coleman, played by Nicholas Mclean, who does a very mean Gary Coleman (Different Strokes) impression. There is also an ensemble cast of Jasmine Beel, Ellis Dackombe, Chloe Gentles and Robbie Noonan who support throughout. I do not want to give too much away, so please go to see the show to find out what it is all about. You will not be disappointed, I promise.

The stage is very simple and it’s this simplicity that makes it so believable as a street in New York. The scenery consists of three down and out buildings and a metal fence and skyscrapers above them, all of which look very authentic. Most of the action happens out on the street, but when the action takes place inside one of the apartments, rather than the scenery move to make way for a room, the windows of the buildings fall down to show what the inside of the apartment looks like and the action takes place on the stage as if they are in the apartment. This is a very clever way of using the stage and scenery effectively.

Upon entering the theatre, posters for the show have parental advisory symbols on them and this is to be followed. This show, although it has puppets in it, is strictly for adults only. Having watched the show, I will never be able to look at puppets in the same way again. A part of my innocent thoughts about puppets has disappeared for good and in such a funny and raw, down to earth way.

If you are easily offended, then this is not the show for you. The show covers such issues as love, sex, porn, racism, being gay etc. in a funny, entertaining and sometimes shocking, but always tongue in cheek way. The songs that go along with these issues are amazingly catchy. I walked out singing ‘It Sucks To Be Me’. The audience consisted of all sorts of people and you can see that it has a cult following of people who watch it numerous times as they sang along with the songs and laughed hysterically throughout.

If you get the chance, please, please, please go and see this show. I highly recommend it. It is worth every penny of the price of the ticket. I would happily go and see it every night of its run if I could. I loved it. Avenue Q has definitely got a new fan in me.

Rating: 5/5

Tickets cost from £11 (booking fees may apply).

Avenue Q is at the Royal & Derngate in Northampton from 18-23 February 2019, for more information or to book tickets visit www.royalandderngate.co.uk or call the box office on 01604 624811.

Royal & Derngate, Guildhall Road, Northampton, NN1 1DP | 01604 624811

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