REVIEW: AVENUE Q (Leicester Haymarket Theatre) ★★★★

The rip-roaring, toe-tapping, outrageously funny (or just outrageous) production of Avenue Q flew into Leicester Haymarket Theatre last week.

First raising its curtain in 2003, Avenue Q is a musical comedy with a cast full of foul-mouthed puppets. Princeton, a grad fresh out of college with a diploma under one arm and a case full of naivety under the other, moves to Avenue Q in search for his ‘purpose’. Princeton’s gradual realisation that the world owes him nothing as he begins to navigate adulthood will resonate with many.

With music and lyrics by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx, this show has a soundtrack packed full of fantastic and genuinely memorable tunes.

The show has a remarkably small cast, with each actor navigating multiple characters seamlessly. Lawrence Smith takes the reigns as our leading character, Princeton, while transitioning faultlessly into Rod. His effortless puppetry caught my eye on several occasions, as his puppet is a true extension of his arm.

Cecily Redman portrays Kate Monster, who in the character’s words is “kinda pretty, and pretty damn smart”, very charmingly. Her rendition of “There’s a Fine, Fine Line” was powerful and received a well-deserved rapturous applause. Redman flawlessly transitions into the polar-opposite character, Lucy the Slut, throughout the show – showing off her talent and versatility.

Tom Steedman takes on even more characters, playing Nicky, Trekkie Monster and Bad Idea Bear. His characters arguably received the most raucous laughter throughout the show, often leaving audience members bent-double at his outrageous ad-libbing.

Saori Oda and Oliver Stanley play a fantastic duo as Christmas Eve and Brian and bounce off each other brilliantly, while Nicholas Mclean was right at home in the role of Gary Coleman. These principle actors were supported by an equally talented and brilliant ensemble.

This production isn’t for the faint hearted. If you’re overly-sensitive, this might not be a show for you. With a character called Lucy the Slut and songs such as ‘Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist’, ‘If You Were Gay’, and ‘The Internet is for Porn’, it goes without saying that you may need to leave your PC values at home for the night if you’re going to really appreciate this production. But, judging by the raucous applause and hysterical laughter at even the riskiest joke, it would seem that audiences still appreciate the chance to relax and not take things too seriously sometimes.

However, it’s advisable not to make the mistake that the mortified parents sat in front of me made – don’t bring your young children along for the ride. This is anything other than a family-friendly puppet show and it’s packed full of innuendos and downright outrageous jokes.

This was my first visit to Leicester Haymarket Theatre since its recent £3.6m revamp, and it was fantastic to see the theatre that is so central to Leicester’s cultural history brought back to life. I would definitely recommend that anyone in the area pay a visit.

Reviewed by Rosie Bambury


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