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Avenue Q is not the most upmarket of New York streets, and is about as far away from Park Avenue as you can get, but it is home to some lively and off the wall characters performed by an unholy comedic alliance of humans and puppets! Princeton, a bright-eyed college graduate, has just moved to this neighbourhood as he desperately tries to follow his dreams and discover his ever-elusive purpose in life. A tiny bank balance, the distraction of a busty blonde and a variety of weird and wonderful friends and neighbours lead Princeton on a hilarious story of self-discovery.

Life may suck on Avenue Q but being jobless, homeless, politically incorrect, having sex (whether hetero, homo or porno… and that’s just the puppets) are just some of the topics featured in the terrific songs of this show.

Avenue Q was the winner of the 2004 Tony Award for Best New Musical, Best Book of a Musical and Best Original Score.

Review by Charlotte King

Have you ever wanted to go back to college? Wondered why you didn’t have a boyfriend? Or… perhaps… had a one night stand with a monster?

If so, welcome to Avenue Q; you’ll fit in just fine.

BrassNeck Theatre’s current musical offering centres on an unlikely collection of dissatisfied characters (from monsters, to out of work comedians, to 80’s child star Gary Coleman), looking to move forward in their careers, their love-lives, and even, if they possibly can, find their purpose in life.  With the slick production values that are now synonymous with both BrassNeck Theatre and the direction of Royston Bayfield, Avenue Q skilfully presents a unique combination of puppets and crudity to create (for those of us old enough to remember it) an adult version of Sesame Street.

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Gemma Durkin with Lucy the Slut

The show’s lovable characters are created by a stunning cast. Gemma Durkin’s performance as Kate Monster is superb. Her vocals are uplifting and I felt genuinely moved by her rendition of ‘There’s A Fine, Fine Line’ – no mean feat when sharing the stage with a felt doll. The character of Lucy, also played by Gemma, provides the perfect opportunity for her to show off her vocal range as well as her versatility on stage. Equally strong is Tom Kyle’s portrayal of Princeton. Tom also plays Rod; the seamless transitions from one character to the next, as well as the progression in the character of Rod, are both to be applauded.

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Tom Kyle with Princeton

Among the other residents of Avenue Q, you’ll meet Christmas Eve (Emily Taylor), and Brian (Andrew Walton), both of whom give very strong performances. Emily’s lovely performance of ‘The More You Ruv Someone’ is a highlight and Andrew’s comic timing is sure to make you giggle.

Naomi Hurtault takes on the challenge of Gary Coleman (complete with catchphrase, ‘What you talkin’ ‘bout, Willis?’), and gives a confident performance that tackles some tricky vocals with ease. Richard Lloyd has the unenviable task of controlling two handed puppets with a number of other cast members, yet this is handled skilfully and Richard gives a comical portrayal of Nicky and brashly endearing rendition of Trekkie Monster.

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Nicky Burrows & Richard Lloyd with Nicky & Rod

Worth a special mention, I believe, are Ben Tomlinson and Nicky Burrows. While these actors had smaller roles and are often found switching from character to character as the need arose, the skill with which they did this gives the show a professional edge. The greatest compliment I can pay is that often I didn’t realise such a transition had taken place. Having said this, both actors are perfectly capable of making their presence felt when necessary – the portrayal of the Bad Idea Bears brings (even more) hilarity to the show.

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The cast of Avenue Q

Despite the unique nature of the acting required in this show, the characters are no less engaging and, to my surprise, I soon found myself touched by the monsters; commiserating with their mistakes and celebrating with their successes. Instead of the puppets seeming like accessories to the actors, the actors became simply extensions of the puppets. This is a testament to the puppetry of the cast.

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Emily Taylor (Christmas Eve) with Ben Tomlinson & Richard Lloyd and Nicky

The set, costumes and lighting are all of a high standard; the windows open to reveal the chintzy granny-chic of Kate Monster’s front room and Christmas Eve’s dress lights up (I can’t resist this) like a Christmas tree. The band, under the direction of MD Cath Sweet, perform to a very high standard; it’s a shame that at times their volume seemed to overpower the singers. However this was rare, and quickly put to rights – this slick correction bodes very well for opening night.

This production is set to be another in a long line of successful shows from BrassNeck Theatre. Tickets are, amazingly, still available from the Box Office on 0113 2505011, and while possibly not suited for children, this musical is certainly one for the childish among us.

I will certainly be revisiting Avenue Q.