'Avenue Q – The Musical'
Forget what your mother used to say about how swearing isn't big or clever and go see Ovation's fringe production of ‘Avenue Q’ – a wildly funny and very naughty musical that is the missing link between Sesame Street and South Park. The show features an array of muppet-style hand puppets courtesy of puppet consultant Nigel Plaskitt, renowned for his work with The Muppets, Spitting Image and the West End version of ‘Avenue Q’.
Known for its untamed approach, this smaller scale fringe production is a fitting revival that retains all the energy and wackiness of the original big-scale effort. Focusing on the character of Princeton, a wide-eyed puppet and young graduate who has no clue what to do with his BA degree in English, ‘Avenue Q’ explores some of life's most common confusions and turbulences through puppetry and song. It concentrates on a handful of human and puppet characters living on a city street named Avenue Q.
A distinct difference between this and any Jim Henson production is that, despite the similarities in puppet design (colourful, fuzzy felted creations with round faces, large mouths and cheeky grins), this musical sees each puppet performed by its own, dedicated yet fully visible actor. They match their puppet's facial expressions and mannerisms marvellously, leading you to believe in the puppet/human entity as one character.
The production is performed with vigour, and the jokes are abundant, but there are a couple of roadblocks stopping it from being standout, including the venue's sound balance. The live band do a great job but unfortunately for those closest to the band, some of the show's most rib-tickling lines are drowned out.
Another disappointment is that some of the staging means whole scenes are hard for half the audience to appreciate. Most appearances by the 'Bad Ideas Bears' – a cute, fuzzy pair who entice Princeton into bad behaviour – are obscured by poor blocking. A real shame as, if you can't see the puppets in action, you can't appreciate that these rude but thought-provoking songs are being sung by some of the cutest creations you may ever encounter.
Director - John Plews
Musical Supervisor - Angharad Sanders
Musical Director - Simon Burrow
Designer - Suzi Lombardelli
Lighting Designer - Aaron J Dootson
Sound Designer - Jon Raper
Choreographer - Grant Murphy
Puppet Consultant - Nigel Plaskitt
Puppet Creator - Paul Jomain
Associate Director - Simon Lipkin
Casting Director - Ri McDaid-Wren
Orchestrations and Arrangements - Stephen Oremus
Animation Design - Robert Lopez