Take the catchy music of Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx, witty one-liners and amusing dialogue by Jeff Whitty, puppets, live acting and other great homages to Sesame Street, and you have Avenue Q. This Tony award winning musical has been loved by adults worldwide since its Broadway debut in 2003, for its relatable themes of adulthood, and the struggles that come with growing up.
Beaumaris Theatre Inc. are currently in the middle of their nine show run of Avenue Q at Beaumaris Theatre on Wells Road, and have put together what is an entertaining evening full of laughs that’s a good time for everyone (just not the kids!)
From one of the first numbers ‘It Sucks To Be Me’, featuring nearly all of this strong eight-member cast, it’s evident that Beaumaris Theatre have handpicked their cast with care and thought. From the get go, Josh Pratt and Amanda Rotberg are able to shine with both their vocal and comedic skills. Pratt is able to switch effortlessly between both his puppet characters; hopeful college graduate Princeton, and uptight yet kind-hearted Rod. Rotberg meanwhile gives the character of Kate Monster a charming innocence, matched with a great singing voice and skilful puppeteering. The rest of the cast are to be congratulated for a job well done, with each member bringing something unique and hilarious to each of their various characters, whether it be a puppet, or acting role.
Avenue Q calls for very simple costume design for its live acting cast members, and in that, Beaumaris have succeeded in maintaining that effective simplicity throughout. Especially notable is the wedding dress worn by the character of Christmas Eve towards the end of act one, which brought a great reaction from the audience.
One of the shows strongest and most impressive points is in its set design. Beaumaris have taken the intimate space, and crafted what is a detailed, colourful and fitting double story set. It’s in this that settings for scenes are clear as the set changes from a street to an apartment, and the use of projectors and T.V screens help push the narrative and songs along. While this is a great asset to the show, these fantastic sets call for more timely scene changes, and there were more than a few moments where the lights were down for a bit too long, while the crew moved and changed the scenery. Once the lights come up though, the sets are once again highlighted and complimented with a great colour scheme by lighting designers Ashleigh Boyce and Paul Court, who are obviously skilled in working with a small space.
Congratulations are also in order for Malcom Huddle and his six-piece orchestra, who do very well not only playing the songs, but also in providing segues and interludes for scene changes. While the band do a great job, there were times where the audio mix caused the cast vocals to be overpowered by the music, and it took a few seconds of adjustment to find that correct balance, causing the first words of a few songs to be missed. This is a small issue that will hopefully be tweaked throughout the remaining performances.
Director/Choreographer Leah Osburn does very well in utilising the small space, keeping the dancing basic, and using the set to create a multi-level effect for the numbers that require the full cast. While choreography is kept light, it’s clear Osburn’s focus was more on character connection and dialogue. Having the audience believe that puppets are arguing, or falling in love is a challenge for any director, but Osburn delivers on that front, and makes it work throughout the entire show. Especially great are the comedic elements in the song ‘The Internet Is For Porn’, and the tender moments in ‘Mix Tape’.
Overall, Beaumaris Theatre’s Avenue Q is a great way to spend an evening if you’re looking to hear some catchy songs, while hearing some hilarious vulgarity from puppets along the way. The team at Beaumaris have put together what is a funny and heartfelt production, taking a talented cast in a small theatre to create big laughs. Well done to everyone involved!