Review: Avenue Q, New Wimbledon Theatre

This Sell A Door tour of the excellent puppet musical Avenue Q shows just how well it is standing the test of time

“You should be much more careful when you’re talking about the sensitive subject of race”

I do love Avenue Q. It was one of the first musicals that I fell in love with after moving to London, tracking it throughout its West End-theatre hopping run with multiple visits (a recap can be found here) and then popping in here and there to catch the occasional touring version. And it is a show to which my reactions have shifted: 13 years ago when I first saw it, its quarter-life crisis was directly recognisable; a little way down the line now, I’m the one saying ‘these kids are so much younger than me’ about this youthful company!

Premiering in 2003, the show – music and lyrics by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx and book by Jeff Whitty – benefited hugely from coming into life in a slightly more innocent pre-social media time, a moment when Generation X didn’t face half as much opprobrium as millennia are forced to shoulder nowadays. And revisiting the show now, as this Sell A Door production kicks off a major UK tour scheduled to last most of the year, it is just lovely to be reminded of simpler times, of such uncomplicated good feeling.

Director and choreographer Cressida Carré has got it just right here, injecting a fresh sense of energy but one which respects that this material still needs very little tinkering. Its after-hours Sesame Street format remains as sharply observant as ever, as it picks away at how little university prepares us for the harsher truths of real life, yet always remaining fondly affectionate about the gaining of that experience. Getting wasted, getting laid, getting fired, sometimes all within 24 hours –  there’s just so much truth about city living here!

And I may be bitter at how young they are, the cast are certainly on top of their game. Tom Steedon as Nicky and Trekkie is brilliantly assured as both characters, Lawrence Smith (fresh from an excellent turn in Brass last year) impresses as Princeton and Rod and Saori Oda’s Christmas Eve is a fantastically garish comic presence. And if I say Cecily Rodman could afford to be a bit looser and loucher to differentiate Lucy the Slut from her sweetly poised Kate Monster, it’s only because I’m (unfairly) comparing her to Julie Atherton’s iconic original interpretation.

A treat then, to be able to revisit a show that is still in remarkably good shape and in these hands, looks set to win over a whole new generation of fans. 

Running time: 2 hours 10 minutes (with interval)
Photos: Matt Martin
Avenue Q is booking at the New Wimbledon Theatre until 9th February, and then tours to:
BIRMINGHAM Alexandra Theatre – Tuesday 12th Feb, 2019 – Saturday 16th Feb, 2019
NORTHAMPTON Royal & Derngate – Monday 18th Feb, 2019 – Saturday 23rd Feb, 2019
CHESTER Storyhouse Theatre – Monday 25th Feb, 2019 – Saturday 2nd Mar, 2019
BASILDON Towngate Theatre – Monday 11th Mar, 2019 – Saturday 16th Mar, 2019
DERBY Derby Theatre – Tuesday 19th Mar, 2019 – Saturday 23rd Mar, 2019
BRADFORD Alhambra – Tuesday 26th Mar, 2019 – Saturday 30th Mar, 2019
CANTERBURY Marlowe Theatre – Monday 1st Apr, 2019 – Saturday 6th Apr, 2019
WIRRAL Floral Theatre – Tuesday 9th Apr, 2019 – Saturday 13th Apr, 2019
CHELTENHAM Everyman Theatre – Tuesday 16th Apr, 2019 – Saturday 20th Apr, 2019
READING The Hexagon – Monday 22nd Apr, 2019 – Saturday 27th Apr, 2019
IPSWICH Regent Theatre – Tuesday 30th Apr, 2019 – Saturday 4th May, 2019
DUNSTABLE Grove Theatre – Monday 6th May, 2019 – Saturday 11th May, 2019
DUBLIN Gaiety Theatre – Monday 13th May, 2019 – Saturday 18th May, 2019
LEICESTER Leicester Haymarket Theatre – Tuesday 21st May, 2019 – Saturday 25th May, 2019
EDINBUGH Edinburgh King’s Theatre – Monday 27th May, 2019 – Saturday 1st Jun, 2019
BRIGHTON Brighton Theatre Royal – Tuesday 4th Jun, 2019 – Saturday 8th Jun, 2019
WOLVERHAMPTON Wolverhampton Grand Theatre – Tuesday 11th Jun, 2019 – Saturday 15th Jun, 2019
CARDIFF Cardiff New Theatre – Tuesday 18th Jun, 2019 – Saturday 22nd Jun, 2019
GLASGOW Glasgow King’s Theatre – Tuesday 25th Jun, 2019 – Saturday 29th Jun, 2019
SUNDERLAND Empire – Wednesday 10th Jul, 2019 – Saturday 13th Jul, 2019
NOTTINGHAM Nottingham Theatre Royal – Monday 15th Jul, 2019 – Saturday 20th Jul, 2019
SHEFFIELD Lyceum Theatre – Monday 29th Jul, 2019 – Saturday 3rd Aug, 2019
BELFAST Waterfront Hall – Wednesday 7th Aug, 2019 – Saturday 10th Aug, 2019
LONDON Hackney Empire – Monday 19th Aug, 2019 – Saturday 24th Aug, 2019
SOUTHAMPTON Mayflower – Tuesday 27th Aug, 2019 – Saturday 31st Aug, 2019
WOKING New Victoria Theatre – Monday 7th Oct, 2019 – Saturday 12th Oct, 2019
MANCHESTER Palace Theatre – Monday 21st Oct, 2019 – Saturday 26th Oct, 2019

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