REVIEW: Avenue Q (Royal & Derngate) ★★★★

We all love the muppets (admit it – you think Kermit is sexy), but puppets in general were always considered a bit childish. In recent years more and more stage shows have been using puppetry to portray concepts and surreal elements of a story.

Avenue Q cuts through this attitude and thrusts puppets and humans together on stage. When it first opened on Broadway in 2002 it was hailed as a breakthrough musical, and it has gone on to incredible success.

Almost 20 years later however, is it still relevant? Yes and no. I’ve seen the show several times in the last ten years and I would have classed it as one of the funniest shows. This time around – although I still laughed – it does feel slightly dated. How many audiences in 2019 remember Diff’rent Strokes? Some of the jokes fall a little flat – perhaps in light of the #MeToo movement – yet there is something about it that still makes you smile.

For the creators are poking fun at the world of today, tackling sensitive subjects such as race, gender equality and homophobia. It’s all harmless fun and we do need to take a long hard look at ourselves to make sure we’re not taking life a little bit too seriously.

The majority of the cast are excellent, particularly Lawrence Smith (Princeton / Rod) and Cecily Redman (Kate Monster / Lucy the Slut) who transition seamlessly between their two characters. What I love about this show is how the puppeteer acts along with the puppet, but you still blur the two together into a sort of merged character. The puppet gets your attention and you firmly believe in the character; the actor however, is equally as good.

The scenery is good, and although elements of the ‘apartments’ are lost in this touring version, it doesn’t cause much concern. Songs in Act I far outshine the later ones, but there are some excellent songs: It Sucks to Be Me, Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist and Mix Tape are all funny, but in different ways and many of the lyrics do resonate (although not quite as much as when I was the same age as Princeton).

With a story such as Avenue Q perhaps aspects of the production need to be updated to keep it relevant for newer audiences; that said, it’s still funny and still an excellent dig at today’s society.

Reviewed by Michaela Clement-Hayes
Photo: Matt Martin

Buy tickets to West End theatre shows (some great discounted offers)
Subscribe to my mailing list for all the latest theatre news, special offers and competitions