With a terrace of shabby looking houses, songs with a message to be delivered and superb interaction between the puppets and the human characters, this show has the totally authentic look and feel of a classic episode of the children’s favourite, Sesame Street, but there is one, less than subtle, difference.
With songs like Everyone’s A Little Bit Racist, If You Were Gay, It Sucks to Be Me and the classic, The Internet Is For Porn, what we have here is what would have happened if Sesame Street had grown up at the same rate as it’s viewers.
The wonderfully catchy score and lyrics by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx, together with the book by Jeff Whitty, create this multi award-winning gem of a show which, under Jason Moore’s slick and tight direction, flows seamlessly from start to finish and is a non-stop feast for the eyes and ears.
Matthew J Henry as Gary, Edward Judge as Brian and Julie Yammanee as the wonderfully named, Christmas Eve, are the humans in the show and each has brilliant comic timing and, very cleverly, ensures that all the interaction is directed straight at the puppets and never at the puppeteers.
Other than the more adult nature of the content, the biggest difference between Avenue Q and its TV inspiration is the fact that all of the puppeteers are visible and no attempt is made at ventriloquism. This performance style is also used in the stage version of The Lion King and, as with that show, it can take just a little while to get comfortable with it
The puppeteers are quite simply brilliant. Their skill at creating personalities for their puppets is consummate and each one comes “alive” before our very eyes. Katherine Moraz is responsible for the two female leads, Kate Monster and Lucy the Slut. The characters are total opposites, and Moraz ensures that they both very distinct personalities. In one scene the two “ladies” meet in the same apartment and, helped by Daniella Gibb who manipulates the puppet of Lucy, Moraz voices both characters while still controlling Kate.
Chris Thatcher has Nicky and Trekkie Monster, both of the larger, two handed, puppets to work with and, again assisted by Gibb, he ensures that they dominate the stage whenever they appear.
The two male leads, college graduate Princeton and repressed gay Rod, are both played by, relative newcomer, Sam Lupton. This is his first UK tour and, were it not for his extremely youthful appearance, it would be very easy to believe, while watching his superb performance, that he has many years as a puppeteer behind him. Both puppets are given very distinct voices and, despite the relatively high-pitched American accent, Lupton is able to sing faultlessly with the same voices as they speak and gives a fantastic performance which shows, perfectly, that he is a young man with a bright future ahead of him.
Theatre Royal Brighton has often advertised itself as “West-End by the Sea” and this superb, first-class, production shows, only too well, how very true that is.