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A CurtainUp London London Review
Avenue Q

If you rearrange the letters in the word unemployed, it spells opportunity.
---- Gary
Avenue Q
Jon Robyns and Princeton
(Photo: Brinkhoff/Mögenburg)
Tony award winning Avenue Q has hotfooted its way from New York to London looking for that niche audience among the twenty somethings. I took my son, who is twenty something and who can just remember the Sesame Street puppets, for what I thought might be a nostalgic evening, but not since the cat bogwashed (British term for a dunking in the lavatory) the brown furry plush toy Mr Snuffleupagus, the Sesame Street mammoth, have I had so much unexpected fun. In Avenue Q the puppets are given an adult treatment and the show is really too sexually explicit for anyone who is not an adult or who finds smut offensive.

What is quite remarkable is that we are looking at a group of English actors playing the roles of puppeteers and singers and actors, sometimes doubling up on the voices while another actor holds the torso of the "second" puppet -- for instance Julie Atherton plays both the heroine, the sweet and furry Kate Monster, and the vampish Miss Piggy derivative, Lucy the Slut, and on occasion has an argument with her alter ego. The cast must have been chosen for their lovely singing voices but they carry off the puppetry and acting with such aplomb that we could have been mistaken in thinking that the slick Broadway cast had come over to London intact.

The other great joy of Avenue Q is in its innovative lyrics, they are irreverent, politically incorrect and very witty. I especially enjoyed the songs of the first act, "What Do You Do With A BA In English", "If You Were Gay, That Would Be Okay", "Everyone's A Little Bit Racist" and "The Internet Is For Porn." What I enjoyed less was the story line descending into sentiment and corn which becomes apparent as the show progresses. There are second half exceptions like the brilliant "Schadenfreude" and Rod's song about his socially acceptable girl friend who no-one has seen because she lives in Canada. Yeah right! I loved the concept of the Bad Idea Bears who initiate trouble all over the place and get people into pickles while looking cutesy and sweet.

Besides the delightful Julie Atherton, Simon Lipkin impresses as Trekkie Monster among others, and Jon Robyns does sterling work doubling as hero Princeton and banker with issues, Rod. But it is unfair to single anyone out when the performances are so even and accomplished. Ann Harada who appeared in Avenue Q on Broadway reprises her role as Christmas Eve but for some reason without a puppet.

Many of the issues which Avenue Q addresses are serious ones and preoccupy young people: unemployment, getting started on a career, house hunting, finding ones sexual identity and someone to love, but are treated here in a lighthearted way. The show previewed for four weeks before the press were asked in to review it and on the night I saw it, there were people who had seen it already. They were returning with friends so I think Avenue Q may gain a cult following in London. For my money I would have prefererred more bittersweet and less slushy stuff in the second act, but it is still an innovative show, expertly played. "Avenue Q" is like a totally brilliant pantomime for adults. Maybe now we shall get to see Lopez and Marx's unproduced Kermit, Prince of Denmark.

Editor's Note: When we reviewed the show in New York the producers felt including the song list with the review as we usually do with musicals which is why the song list was posted separately. AvenueQ Off and On Broadway Reviews . . .  The Separate Song List

Original Concept, Music and Lyrics: Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx
Book: Jeff Whitty
Directed by Jason Moore

Starring: Julie Atherton, Jon Robyns, Simon Lipkin, Giles Terera, Ann Harada
With: Clare Foster, Siôn Lloyd, Luke Evans, Gloria Onitiri, Jacqui Sanchez, Matthew J Henry, Gabriel Vick, Yanle Zhong
Puppets Conceived and Designed by Rick Lloyd
Set Design: Anna Louizos
Costume Design: Mirena Rada
Lighting: Howell Binkley
Sound: Acme Sound Partners
Musical Director: Nick Finlow
Running time: Two hours fifteen minutes with no interval
Box Office: 0870 850 9175
Booking at the Noël Coward Theatre to 30th September 2006 --and extended and as of July 2009, booking to January 2010
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 29th June performance at the Noël Coward Theatre, (formerly The Albery) St Martin's Lane WC2 (Tube: Leicester Square)
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©Copyright 2006, Elyse Sommer.
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