Avenue Q was the West End musical that would not close. It kept transferring to other theatres - due to popular demand and surprised many critics by staying in the West End for so long. Part of the show's success was down to a competitive pricing strategy. But, also the fact that Avenue Q is so refreshingly different and extremely funny, explains why audiences love it so much.
This hit show began life as a musical theatre workshop project and has since grown into a monster hit with many loyal fans coming back for more. Jeff Marx and Robert Lopez have created a show which highlights their love of musical theatre, without resorting to the earnest lyrics which so often leave you cringing. When you do hear anything like them, there is often a nod, wink or swipe at the genre itself.
“It Sucks To Be Me” and “Everyone’s A Little Bit Racist” subvert what has gone before in the same way as the underrated gem Jerry Springer The Opera. Due to the wonderfully written characters, puppets become real characters - as proven by the audience response on the night I attended. You cannot help but connect with them, as they are instantly recognisable.
The plot, as slim as it is, focuses on the lives and loves of a group of people living on Avenue Q; think Sesame Street with gay puppets, a nymph and a cookie style monster who loves porn instead of biscuits. What you are left with is a clever and witty show which plays well to many different age groups. If, like me - you recall Big Bird, Bert and Ernie with affection, you will love the nostalgic twists and younger audiences will be drawn to the racy lyrics and the freshness of the material. How much younger though? The show is promoted for 12 year olds and over. I would be more inclined to say it is more suitable for 15 and over, as there is some edgy and adult material - hilarious as it is, it may lead to some awkward questions during the car ride home.
The performers are all excellent with Adam Pettigrew firing on all cylinders as Princeton and Rod. Playing a funny yet repressed gay man and a directionless American who has yet to follow his dreams gives him plenty of scope and he rises to the challenge incredibly well.
Rachel Jerram is superb as Monster/Lucy The Slut - one of the best I have seen, as she - again multi-tasks with ease and conviction and has a wonderful vocal tone. Jacqueline Tate is a real audience favourite as human - Christmas Eve and Chris Thatcher is hilarious and poignant as Nicky - in equal measure. He also plays the now iconic - Trekkie Monster and a bad news bear.
There are some flaws - the overlong first half has more happening than the second act and the concept is slightly stretched to almost breaking point. But Avenue Q remains a funny, moving and and original show which is full of mischief as it exposes political incorrectness and we laugh along, knowingly.
It may not be for everyone, particularly those who prefer a big old fashioned musical, but for anyone who has ever felt that "It Sucks" to be them, it offers a great night out with a monster-sized heart.