It’s Sesame Street like you’ve never seen it. These idealistic, run-of-the-mill, sexed-up puppets will make you laugh and take you on their journeys to find their own purpose.
Avenue Q originally opened on Broadway 13 years ago with music, lyrics and concept by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx and book by Jeff Whitty. Peter J Snee is directing Prince Moo’s 2016 Melbourne production of Avenue Q to bring audiences the hilarity of puppet nudity and catchy tunes.
The extraordinary cast make the complex performance look easy. With scenes involving voicing two puppets while acting only as one, then also executing choreography within a full ensemble, it’s impressive. This show really allows a young and supremely talented ensemble to shine.
Ross Hannaford exchanged his Cats unitard for two puppets with exceptional grace. While his Princeton is delightful, Hannaford really excels as Rod. He effortlessly transitions between his roles and brings a lovely charm to his characters to accompany his smooth and emotive voice.
Sophie Wright’s Kate Monster and Lucy the Slut couldn’t be more opposite, but Wright rises to the challenge beautifully. She’s wondrously innocent and optimistic as Kate Monster but sultry and sexy as Lucy. The combination of Hannaford and Wright as the leads is wonderful and a real pleasure.
Vincent Hooper’s comic performances as Nicky and Trekkie Monster are impressive, showing off his vocal ability, and have all the largeness that the puppet type requires. Combining Hooper with Lulu McClatchy for the Bad Idea Bears creates a hilarious couple of daring shoulder-sitting devils. McClatchy’s body language throughout is particularly impressive and her Mrs Thistletwat is simple divine.
The three ‘human’ characters Christmas Eve (Sun Park), Brian (Andrew Hondromatidis) and Gary Coleman (Zuleika Kahn) integrate incredibly well and interact with the puppets without hesitation. These three characters in particular are stereotypical, and allow for the choreography to tell further story elements. Ben Adams and Amberly Cull round out the full ensemble beautifully.
It would be difficult to overstate how remarkable this cast is.
Avenue Q is truly full of earworms. You may want to be selective with who you sing these songs in front of though, as they’re certainly not all child friendly or for the easily-offended. Trevor Jones’ expert musical direction takes this catchy score to masterful heights with the six-piece band. The lighting is consistently supportive of the cast and is particularly effective when used to focus on puppets specifically rather than cast member through spotlights. The sound mix is solid, though very occasional quieter vocals were unclear over the music.
The biggest shame of this production (other than how short the season is) is the program. It is unfortunately littered with typos and sub-standard photography. For a $20 program at Her Majesty’s Theatre, perhaps a bit more proofing could have been undertaken.
While the show’s book can feel a bit light-on at times, it manages to ensure a very clear ode to Sesame Street with the constant lessons and optimism of the characters. The simple set allows for some context regarding whose apartment a scene is in, though the projections can feel amateur while trying to capture the child-like essence of Sesame Street. Avenue Q fulfils that spot in our adult-hearts that wishes a show existed to teach us life lessons.
This laugh-out-loud extravaganza is sure to give you a hilarious night out with humour catering to everyone’s politically-incorrect side. Avenue Q is a glorious show and a victory for newer musicals.
One thing’s for sure – it sucks to be you if you miss Avenue Q. It’s only for a short season, so be sure to book your tickets and don’t listen to the Bad Idea Bears!
Avenue Q is on at Melbourne’s Her Majesty’s Theatre until 14 August, 2016.