I love taking a trip to Avenue Q as it is a small show with a huge heart and it has never faltered. This puppet musical is the show that refused to leave the West End and you can see why, as it offers audiences an escape from the recession - as it remains a furry funny feel-good treat.
Following the lives of a group of young people who live on Avenue Q - every stereotype you can think of is explored and poked fun at - from Princeton (the brilliant Sam Lupton) - the guy with an English degree and no direction, through to Lucy the Slut and the lovable Kate Monster (both played withn relish by the wonderful Katherine Moraz). If you have fond memories of Sesame Street - imagine if the likes of Big Bird, Bert and Ernie got mortgages and had sex and you get the picture.
This description sells the show short though, because like the fantastic film Lars and the Real Girl - this cuddly show straddles a fine line between edgy comedy and cute moments. Deep down - it's a perceptive musical a heart as big as the Manchester Ship Canal.
Each character is well written and Jeff Whitty's witty book explores racism, relationships, stereotypes, sexuality and the 'what now?' moments that we all face. The fact that this group are so believable is down to him and the excellent performers who deliver 5 star turns. Also, never once do you feel preached to as there is always a wink and nudge to let you know that the main F-word on display here is FUN.
Sam Lupton is a real find as two very different characters - Princeton and Rod, and he transforms himself with ease, through his impeccable accents and evocative body language, and as a result, delivers a heartfelt turn. Last year he was sat in the audience for this show and now, here he is stealing it - a tremendous achievement. Katharine Moraz is also totally believable and in fine voice as Kate/Lucy the Slut - each hair flick revealing more than is on the page. Avenue Q favourite Chris Thatcher has played Trekkie and Nicky countless times but he never simply goes through the motions - his comic timing is superb.
Likewise, Julie Yammanee's Christmas Eve, Matthew J Henry's Gary and Edward Judge's Brian bring provide laughter and pathos as the other inhabitants of this wacky and welcoming place. Special mention too goes to Daniella Gibb for her athleticism switching numerous roles with ease.
Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx songs are light, breezy and very memorable. "It Sucks to Be Me" is so knowing as we have all been there and "Everyone's a Little Bit Racist" also leaves you nodding in agreement. The only flaw is that Act 1 is a tad too long but otherwise the pacing here is perfect.
As for the show itself, this is my fourth visit to Avenue Q and I would gladly jump on board again. With a cast as good as this one, you'd be a muppet to miss it.