Originally published on Reviews Hub
Avenue Q became something of a cult hit on both sides of the Atlantic first in New York in 2003 and the West End in 2006. It’s not hard to see why; a filthy and rude puppet show, sharp and witty but with enough saccharine sweetness to fill the most jaded of souls and with an ending that seems to suggest that everyone is fundamentally a softie at heart. It’s an enjoyable night and it’s almost impossible to leave the theatre without a smile, but in 2016, some 13 years after its first night, it no longer feels as subversive and as relevant as it once was.
Its comic premise is to throw cute puppets and human adults and make them live side by side in a crummy New York suburb, engaging in the usual drifting 20s preoccupations of finding purpose, getting in the right relationship, hitting the booze hard and, in one explicit scene of puppet copulation, engaging in drunken hook-ups. The characters range from a lost English graduate, a cute as pie kindergarten assistant, a closeted Republican banker, and a porn addicted monster who sings a song called The Internet Is For Porn. This song title in its way tells you all you need to know. What was very much on the button in 2003 feels blasé and yesterday’s news today. The world moves quickly and though some of the struggles these characters face remain the same, others have moved on quite substantially. Maybe a re-write for its 15th anniversary to incorporate Netflix and chill, all-kale diets and Tinder matches could be on the cards?
The score by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx is always tuneful and witty but all its best tunes like many of its best ideas seem to happen in the first half and we spend the whole of the second half hoping for some of that magic to return as it enters a lull. It’s a fun show but even with its countless revivals in the past few years, it’s not a great one.
Still Sell A Door’s revival, now on its third UK tour more than matches up to the production’s original staging, with Cressida Carré’s exuberant direction and choreography keeping the show motoring along. is blessed with a number of strong performances, from the human cast of Richard Morse and Arina II, to those who impressively blend the puppet skills with a physical performance so you don’t know where one ends and the other begins, Stephen Arden and Richard Lowe – who portray all the male characters – and Sarah Harlington who doubles as the sweet Kate Monster and the vampish Miss Piggy-lite Lucy The Slut, displays the same star wattage as the London original Julie Atherton did in the role.
So a slick, feel-good and thoroughly enjoyable evening, though one that has lost some bite over the years.