Avenue Q is a musical that I've always wanted to see but for whatever reason have never had the opportunity. When it first hit the West End in 2009, tickets were almost impossible to find. Either that, or they'd cost you the equivalent of your first mortgage. Two weeks ago I was offered tickets to attend the opening press night of the Greenwich length of their UK tour. This, combined with a wine token and a free post-theatre buffet and I was one of the happiest people in the entire world (if not the UK, at least).
For those who don't know, Avenue Q is a 'coming-of-age parable', that takes place on a fictional New York street where the lives of the residents are explored. Characters in the show include a gay guy who works for the government (who is in the closet), a black guy (played by a woman), a Chinese lady (who many confuse to be Japanese), a slut (called 'The Slut'), and a fat American guy (who doesn't have a job).The show satirises the issues that young people face upon entering adulthood and it's incredibly truthful. Topics like unemployment, relationships, sexuality, racism and financial problems are all scrutinised throughout. The show is especially resonant for those who have recently graduated form university and who are confused as to what their 'purpose' in life may be. In fact, this is the dilemma that the main character faces.
The unusual thing about Avenue Q is that, bar three of the characters, the entire cast consists of puppets, similar to those of Sesame Street. Furthermore, the puppetteers are present on stage for the duraction of the show and are not concealed in any way. Bizarely, this doesn't distract from what's happening. Five minutes into the show, i had accepted it as normal. Avenue Q isn't afraid to go where usual productions would carefully avoid with miles and miles of red tape, which is what makes it so commendable. It pokes fun at subjects that many would consider sensitive, but approaches them with such accuracy that it's difficult not to laugh. For example, here's a sample from the song 'Everyone's a little bit racist':
"Everyone's a little bit racist
Doesn't mean we go
Around committing hate crimes.
Look around and you will find
No one's really color blind.
Maybe it's a fact
We all should face
Everyone makes judgments
Based on race".
Other song titles include: 'The internet is for porn', 'If you were gay' and 'It sucks to be me.'
Avenue Q is hilarious. From beginning to end I probably laughed every couple of minutes. You know how usually in musicals there's a song or two that are sort of rubbish, or total time-wasters? There's none of that here. All the songs were consistently brilliant. I usually frown upon the audience members who tap their feet along to the beat, or bop their heads to one side but on this particular evening I proudly joined the Cringe Club. It was difficult not to. The actor's voices were particularly great in this production, some taking on the personas of two or more characters in the same scene.
I couldn't recommend Avenue Q enough. It exceeded all my expectations. If you like laughing, then this is for you. Everyone likes poking fun of themselves, and society in general, especially at times when everything is looking a little bit pear-shaped. It's a musical that everyone can relate to. If you're put off by the idea of a puppet show then you need to open your horizons, it really works.
NB: Maybe don't go with your mum.