Newest Review: ... clever lighting and a few concealed compartments they really gave the space life, allowing it to be either Avenue Q itself, 5th Avenue be... more
It certainly did NOT suck to be me tonight .
Member Name: thehonesttruth
Advantages: Flawless performance, engaging storyline, believable characters
Disadvantages: Absolutely nothing at all .
I've wanted to watch Avenue Q for a long time - ever since I first saw a video of the song 'The Internet is for Porn' online. The video wasn't from any show performance, but was a song from the soundtrack remade with 'World of Warcraft' characters, but nonetheless it inspired me to seek out other songs from the musical on youtube, and the subjects they covered and the unique way they did so made me determined to see the show for myself sometime .
My chance came today - currently touring the UK, the show came to Nottingham, and it was with great excitement that my boyfriend and I took our seats at 7.30 tonight . Having heard many of the songs before, I was a little concerned that the musical wouldn't offer me anything new - I'm glad to say I was very wrong.
Avenue Q tells the story of 22 year old Princeton, a recent university graduate with a degree in English, looking for his first home and finding that, with many neighbourhoods out of his price range, Avenue Q seems like the perfect place to make his home. Upon arriving there, he meets his new neighbours, an oddball collection of life's losers - Brian, the failed comedian, his fiancée Christmas Eve, a therapist with no clients on her book, and then the unlucky in love Kate Monster. Then there's closet homosexual Rod, with his unrequited love for his flatmate Nicky, and the porn obsessed Trekkie Monster, and Gary Coleman the landlord/handyman. The play takes us through the many little problems in their lives - dealing with racism, love, jobs, and everyone's hopes and dreams.
Acted out using puppets, (with the actors visible on stage at the same time) it's almost inevitable that people will describe this as 'Muppets for Adults' , something the writers were clearly aware of when penning the first song 'What do you Do with a B.A. in English?' which blatantly steals the tune from 'Rainbow Connection'. However, as the show went on, I quickly forgot about any such comparisons, as the show is fantastic in it's own right.
The songs, it has to be said, are absolutely fantastic - hilarious lyrics that make you laugh, tap your feet, and nod in agreement as you realise how much they apply to your own life. Everyone has had a moment when they feel like their life is rubbish, the education they got into debt for was wasted, and a moment where they've felt 'Well, at least I'm not that guy' and this musical really taps into that excellently. The storyline that ties all the songs together is a very simple tale of pursuing your dreams.
I was amazed at what the cast managed to do with a very small stage and set . The set was essentially a row of three narrow houses, but with a bit of ingenuity, some clever lighting and a few concealed compartments they really gave the space life, allowing it to be either Avenue Q itself, 5th Avenue below the Empire State building, and even a hospital ward.
The cast were fantastic, with many of them taking on multiple roles, some at times doing two roles at the same time . Take Katharine Moraz for example, who played both Kate Monster and Lucy the Slut. Although at times she handed over physical control of one or other of the characters to Daniella Gibb , whose control of movement and vivid facial and bodily expressions were equally skilled, she often had to perform a dialogue between both characters, with a different tone of voice and pace of speech for each.
I loved that each character had a distinct personality, that seemed to carry over into the actor or actress controlling them at the time . Lucy the Slut for example has an exaggerated sexy movement that carried over to both actresses, with much seductive hip swinging. Even the subtlest movement, be it a gulp to control tears, a gasp of surprise, or a frustrated sigh, was always shown in duplicate, with the actors and the characters they controlled moving in perfect time.
I can't imagine how much hard work must go in to performing in this kind of role, especially with some characters requiring two actors to operate, who skipped across the stage in perfect harmony as though they shared the same brain . Not to mention physical fitness , with actors being on the stage itself one second and on the second tier of the set the next.
Stand out performance of the night for me was Jonny Fines, who played (as far as I could keep track) Trekkie, Nicky, and one the the Bad Idea Bears. His performance of 'If You Were Gay was wonderful, with a great comical fluidity of movement (assisted by Daniella Gibb). His facial expressions were perfectly mirrored with the character, and there were some fantastic dance moves that had the entire audience in stitches. With that said, my favourite character of the show has to be Rod, whose battle with his own sexuality was comical whilst still managing to portray the more serious issues of dealing with denial and learning to feel comfortable in your own skin.
I found it hard to believe that this was Luke Striffler's first time on stage as Brian. There was one very small stumble over delivery of a line, but recovery was so fast that it was barely noticed. As one of only three cast members not directly in control of a puppet character, he could have easily been overlooked but had a fantastic stage presence and a beaming smile that seemed to fill the theatre. Additionally Julie Yammanee did a wonderful turn as Christmas Eve, a stereotypical asian-american (NOT an Oriental) role complete with chicken flied lice accent, and Kayi Ushe as Gary Coleman was hilarious, doing some utterly believable impersonations despite being several feet too tall.
The main point that made this so very enjoyable though was the obvious joy the actors took in performing their role. There were huge smiles on all their faces and an obvious passion in their eyes as they danced and sang across the stage, effortlessly carrying off an American accent whilst doing so.
Overall, I had a fantastic night. I clapped until my hands were sore, laughed until I almost wet myself, and still managed to find time in there somewhere for a tear or two . I identified with and believed in each and every character in some way, and whilst it might suck to be some of the characters, it certainly didn't to be part of the audience.
Summary: I would watch it again ten times over right now if I could.