“If you rearrange the letters in ‘unemployment’, you get the word ‘opportunity’”
If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, then you will know that one of my favourite shows of recent years (if not my entire life!) is Avenue Q, now sadly departed from the West End after a 5 year, multi-venue stint but thankfully given new life in this extensive UK tour which covers a massive number of venues over the next six months. I’ve seen it seven times now, but could not resist another trip when the tour called into Richmond Theatre with its new cast featuring both new faces and some familiar ones from earlier incarnations of the West End cast.
The show is a slice of young(ish) adulthood, with characters – some human, some Sesame Street style puppets – who are just doodling along in life from day to day whilst dealing with the struggles of relationships, sex, careers, identity, mostly to the tune of Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx’s wonderfully witty and catchy songs. What really works about the show though is the way in which it uses the puppets and the kids show format to deal with these adult issues in such an engaging and playful way yet always remaining true to heart.
Rachel Jerram was excellent as the sweet-natured but realistic Kate Monster and stretching well to make a convincingly vampy Lucy the Slut, her previous time on the show not restricting her from putting her own spin on Kate in particular; Chris Thatcher pulled off both Nicky and Trekkie Monster with aplomb and combined with Katharine Moraz, made for a brilliant pair of Bad Idea Bears; Edward Judge and Matthew J Henry were both good as Brian and Gary respectively, but it was Jacqueline Tate’s Christmas Eve who came close to stealing the show, her comfort in the role really showing as she combined playing for laughs with the necessary clarity to ensure everyone hears the jokes too as well as the accent.
The only slight room for improvement I could see was with Adam Pettigrew as Princeton/Rod: his Rod was perfect but I felt that he betrayed a little nervousness in rushing many of his lines at Princeton and not really working the charm quite enough as befits the central character. Though I suspect part of this came down to the fact I was a little surprised at how young he looked, especially against the rest of the ensemble, but as the only one of the leads to not have any previous Q experience, he’s bound to ease into the role a bit more as the tour progresses.
I don’t think I could see any major changes to the show, the only obvious one being a nice nod to Kew Gardens at one point, always nice to see in touring shows and a couple of new positions I didn’t remember in the puppet sex scene 😉 But there were subtle things that I picked up that I’d either forgotten or hadn’t noticed before, especially the choreographed movements of the Bad Idea Bears (my favourite characters).
Whereas it may have been the 8th time for me seeing this show and there were definitely some other fans who had seen it more than once scattered throughout the audience, it is always great fun listening to the reactions of people seeing the show for the first time, especially with their reactions to the humour and it is for that reason that I don’t think I will ever grow bored of watching this show. It really is one of the most relatable shows out there, whether it’s your love-life, your job or just general angst about the direction of your life, there will be something in here that resonates with you with its bittersweet honesty and warmly deep humour (although I reckon they could have picked a better target than Jedward for the end of For Now!).
Running time: 2 hours 10 minutes (with interval)
Programme cost: £3
Booking until 5th March and then continuing to tour the country, Aberdeen, Woking, Norwich and Sheffield are the next stops
Note: definitely not suitable for young’uns (under 5s not allowed) and approach with caution for up to 15 I think