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Review - Avenue Q: I laughed until I cried

Avenue Q

Music and Lyrics by Robert Lopez & Jeff Marx

Book by Jeff Whitty

Presented by Brisbane Arts Theatre

Petrie Terrace


Season: 10 November to 22 December 2018. Bookings; or (07) 3369 2344

Avenue Q is the story of Princeton, who has just left college with a BA in English, and has no idea of what he wants to do in life. He doesn’t have a job and is seeking his purpose. He winds up on Avenue Q looking for an apartment to rent, having started at Avenue A, which was out of his price range. Here he meets an interesting bunch of characters who share the apartment building, including Gary Coleman, former child celebrity and now building superintendent.

A mix of humans and monsters live together in the building. The show starts off innocently enough, and one could be forgiven for thinking of references to Sesame Street and the Muppets, but after the first couple of songs, it was obvious that Jim Henson was probably rolling over in his grave with laughter too. There was a subtle reference to the ‘black’ and ‘white’ separatist policy that existed up until the 1960s in America, with a bit of furry monster thrown in, and one of the songs says it all – Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist. And to add total ridiculousness to the whole throwaway ‘African American’ lines, the Gary Coleman character was played by a Caucasian female.

There are only three ‘real’ humans on stage – Gary Coleman (Natalie Mead), Christmas Eve (Jordan Boyd) and Brian (Matt Shield). The rest of the cast are puppets – either human (like Bert and Ernie from Sesame St) or monsters (like Cookie Monster), and their handlers. The puppetry was superb and very quickly you are seeing the puppet and the puppeteer as one entity on stage. I just loved the way the combination of the puppeteer’s facial expressions and gestures made with the puppet, brought them to life on stage as if they were real. All puppeteers were dressed in black so as not to distract from the puppets themselves, who did have a few costume changes.

The cast/puppeteers were Princeton (William Toft), Katie Monster (Katie Routson), Lucy T. Slut (Lorraine Hanson), Rod (Tyler Stevens), Nicky and Trekkie Monster (Joshua Moore), Mrs Thistletwat (Lorraine Hanson) and the Bad Idea Bears (Michelle Radu and Connor Clarke). There are also a few others who pop up for songs along the way, including a cameo from Elmo (Sesame St). The actors/puppeteers are all fantastic and the singing was great.

The story bumps along with Princeton meeting Katie Monster, asking her out on a date to see Lucy T. Slut perform at the local nightclub venue, and then back to her place for some very furry horizontal mamboing, after drinking way too much, encouraged by the two very wicked Bad Idea Bears with their “more drink, more fun” motto. Meanwhile, Rod (the closet gay) was having a rough time with his messy flatmate, Nicky; Brian and Christmas Eve’s relationship eventually gets them to the altar; and Trekkie Monster was the resident perv. Katie Monster was the sweet one of the story, wanting to set up a school exclusively for monsters.

There were so many great songs in this musical. It Sucks to be Me, If You Were Gay, The Internet is for Porn, I’m Not Wearing Underwear Today; Special; You Can Be as Loud as the Hell You Want (When You’re Makin’ Love), and My Girlfriend Who Lives in Canada are but a few. The Internet is for Porn is extremely funny, sung by Katie Monster about teaching a kindergarten class how to use the internet, which gets hijacked by Trekkie. This also has a technical aspect to it as Trekkie sticks his head out of an upstairs window at exactly the right spot on numerous occasions synced with a spotlight. It was spot on.

All of the characters are great, however my favourites were Trekkie and the Bad Idea Bears because they were just so downright wicked, rude, crude and extremely likeable. They also had the best lines and got away with it. I also liked the dancing boxes towards the beginning of the show and the fur ball hoicking cat.

This show was snappy, well-paced and hilarious. A live band was playing, but was backstage out of sight. Use was also made of television screens during the show and at half time.

The stage set was a two-storey building with windows and doors, with a balcony on the upper floor, where a trio of back up singers appeared. The two doorways also opened out to create the illusion of being inside an apartment. A fire hydrant and some trash cans completed the street scene in front of the building.

I thoroughly enjoyed the performance at BAT. Avenue Q was not for the prudish, and was definitely not for children, with its outrageous sexual humour, antics and language. I am only a second timer for this puppetry musical and I laughed until I cried. There were obviously a few first timers in the audience with the outbursts of raucous laughter at the particularly lewd one liners and the sex scenes.

Avenue Q is on at the Brisbane Arts Theatre, from 10 November to 22 December 2018.

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