Review: Avenue Q

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After a hugely successful run in the West End, triple Tony award-winning comedy musical Avenue Q embarked on a national tour, which arrived at Darlington Civic Theatre on Tuesday, June 9th, 2015.

Created by Jeff Marx and Robert Lopez (co-creator of Book of Mormon), the production follows the trials and tribulations of a group of puppets living on Avenue Q, including Princeton, a college graduate who is looking to find his purpose in life, and Kate Monster, who dreams of opening her own monster school.

With a whole host of puppets and songs, Avenue Q has all the ingredients for a family-friendly show. However, the cheerfully mischievous tone and crude humour of the production makes this anything but. Think of it as a homage to “Sesame Street”, with a lot more risqué.

Richard Lowe, Sarah Harlington, Stephen Arden and Jessica Parker have the difficult role of bringing their puppet counterparts to life. Despite being visible at all times, the actors are almost invisible as the spotlight and the attention of the audience becomes fixed upon the puppets. It’s a very difficult skill to master, though one the cast achieve with the utmost ease (or so it seems).

The puppets are also joined by human characters: Brian (Richard Morse), Christmas Eve (Arina II) and Gary Coleman (Etisyai Philip). Each one is brilliantly integrated into the storyline and has their fair share of laughs and moments. This is an ensemble with no weak links, and it clearly shows.

Avenue Q tackles issues such as homosexuality, racism and sex in a way that has never been done on stage before: with the use of puppets. These issues are given a comical spin as part of the soundtrack, which is equally as funny as it is catchy. Performed by a brilliant live orchestra, highlights include “Everybody’s A Little Bit Racist”, “If You Were Gay” and “The Internet Is For Porn”.

Whilst the second half is more subdued in comparison to the first (presumably to concentrate on moving the plot forward), Avenue Q is a flawless production that is bursting with heart. You’d be a muppet to miss this.

Avenue Q: The Musical is at Darlington Civic Theatre from Tuesday, June 9th, 2015 until Saturday, June 13th, 2015. Tickets are available from the box office and website.