York Theatre Royal, June 25
York Light Opera Company have produced a show that’s a little different. Avenue Q has been around on Broadway since 2003 and has transferred all over the world.
Its creators have moved onto such projects as The Book of Mormon and the latest Disney juggernaut Frozen. I actually saw it on Broadway about five years. There it was amazing, but will this production impress me as much?
In essence this is a tale of a group of friends in New York, all living on the titular Avenue Q. But here is where the twist kicks in; all but three of the characters are puppets.
Yes, puppets, like Sesame Street (although legally nothing to do with Muppets or Sesame Street!).
This show is unique among puppet shows in that the puppeteers are on stage with the puppets. The only concession to them hiding is that they wear all black.
This may sound distracting but I found that it added to the show, it doesn’t take long before you don’t really notice the actors.
Our nominal hero is Princeton, a recent graduate who very quickly discovers that his BA in English is pretty worthless (don’t I know it?!), who meets and falls for Kate Monster, a sweet natured teaching assistant who happens to be a monster (a cute and cuddly one).
Avenue Q is populated by such characters as Rod and Nicky – a closeted gay banker and his layabout roommate – comedian Brian and his other half, Japanese therapist Christmas Eve.
Not to mention Trekkie Monster, who gets the catchiest of all the songs in the show. You will know it when you hear it…
I haven’t even told you about Gary Coleman yet: yes, that Gary Coleman, former child star of Different Strokes. He is the superintendent of their buildings, having hit on hard times.
Here Coleman is played by Lauren Charlton-Mathews, ably continuing the tradition of having the character played by a woman.
The cast in general dealt with the complicated issue of acting and puppetry very well. The standout for me was Alexa Chaplin as Kate Monster, who gave Kate the required personality while also adding subtle human touches acting alongside her.
I was also particularly impressed by Richard McDonald playing Nicky, a puppet who could have very easily just been Ernie, but excellent voice and puppet work kept that from happening.
The only major flaw of this production came from the crew. Unfortunately, several lighting cues were missed and there were a couple of microphone issues. I am nit-picking here, but the actors deserved better.
In short, Avenue Q is not a show to take the kids to, but I did see several older members of the audience chuckling away at songs such as The Internet Is For Porn and Everyone’s A Little Bit Racist.
A consistently funny, well-acted and surprisingly sweet show, which probably won’t show up York again anytime soon.
Definitely see it while you have the chance!