At the same time as extending its booking period by another six months through to January 2008, Avenue Q has reduced its standard ticket prices to as little as £10 for midweek performances.

Since opening at the Noel Coward Theatre on 28 June 2006 (previews from 1 June), Avenue Q’s ticket pricing has been largely in line with other West End musicals with top-price tickets at £50. However, the off-beat comedy is especially popular with younger audiences, many of whom return for repeat viewings. After audience research at the theatre, tickets for Monday to Thursday and Friday early evening performances have been re-priced from £10 (previously £17.50) to a maximum of £35.

Friday late show and Saturday performance prices remain unchanged. From 9 February, the times for the two Friday shows will be brought forward, from 5.45pm and 8.45pm, to 5.30pm and 8.30pm.

Commenting on the ticket restructure, producer and theatre owner Cameron Mackintosh said: “British audiences have embraced Avenue Q like in New York where it is now its fourth sell-out year. I am delighted that the show has been discovered here by an audience that is not traditionally found in the West End and who are laughing their heads off at what is a truly original musical.”

Billed as an adult version of Seasame Street, Avenue Q began its life at Off-Broadway’s Vineyard Theatre before transferring in July 2003 to Broadway’s Golden Theatre, where it went on to win three 2004 Tony Awards including Best Musical. A cast of seven – three of them playing humans, the rest manipulating multiple puppets that include a closet gay puppet called Rod, a porn-addicted puppet called Trekkie Monster, and a puppet looking for love called Kate Monster – tell the characters’ tales of love and hardship on the downtown street.

Avenue Q has a score by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx, and a book by Jeff Whitty, with puppets conceived and designed by Rick Lyon, musical supervision by Stephen Oremus, and choreography by Ken Roberson. The current West End cast features Giles Terera, Julie Atherton, Jon Robyns, Simon Lipkin, Clare Foster, Naoko Mori and Sion Lloyd.

Avenue Q has been nominated for the Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Musical and for two prizes – Best New Musical and Best Ensemble Performance - in’s Theatregoers’ Choice Awards (click here to vote now!). Tonight (22 January), a special midnight matinee performance, postponed from last October (See News, 19 Oct 2006), is being held at the Noel Coward in aid of HIV and AIDS charity Theatrecares. All performers, technicians, musicians and royalty holders and Delfont Mackintosh Theatres have agreed to waive their fees for the event.

Meanwhile, two other Olivier and Award-nominated productions have also announced extensions. At the Adelphi Theatre, Michael Grandage's revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's 1978 classic Evita - up for three Oliviers and seven Theatregoers’ Choice Awards (click here to vote now!) - has added a further eight months to its booking period. It opened on 21 June 2006 (previews from 2 June) and is now booking through to 15 December 2007.

Based on the life and times of Eva Peron, the second wife of Argentine dictator Juan Peron, the musical stars Argentine actress Elena Roger* in the title role alongside Philip Quast as Juan Peron and Matt Rawle as narrator Che Guevara. (*Abbie Osmon performs the role of Eva on Monday evenings and Thursday matinees.)

And at the Criterion Theatre, Patrick Barlow’s comic stage adaptation of John Buchan’s whodunit The 39 Steps has added five months to its West End booking period. Following a sell-out summer season at north London’s Tricycle Theatre, The 39 Steps – which premiered in June 2005 at Leeds’ West Yorkshire Playhouse – transferred to the West End, opening on 20 September 2006 (previews from 14 September) and initially booking until 16 April 2007. It’s now booking until 15 September 2007.

The 39 Steps - in which Richard Hannay must break a spy ring and prove his innocent - was memorably filmed by Alfred Hitchcock in 1935. In the stage version, four actors play “150 roles” between them and recreate all of the story’s thrills and spills, including the chase on the Flying Scotsman and the escape on the Forth Bridge. The cast are Charles Edwards, Rupert Degas, Simon Gregor and, just taken over from Catherine McCormack, Rachel Pickup (See News, 13 Dec 2006).

Voting continues in the Theatregoers’ Choice Awards until 31 January, with winners announced on 9 February (See News, 1 Dec 2006). This year’s Laurence Olivier Awards ceremony is held at the Grosvenor House Hotel on 18 February (See News, 18 Jan 2007).

- by Terri Paddock