Brisbane Arts Theatre’s Avenue Q

Avenue Q

Avenue Q

Brisbane Arts Theatre

2nd June – 14th July 2012

Reviewed by Suzannah Bentley

As a long-time fan of Sesame Street, The Labyrinth, and pretty much all things Jim Henson, as well as a lover of musicals, I was eager to finally see a production of Avenue Q. A winner of multiple Tony Awards and one of the longest running Broadway productions of all time, Avenue Q tells the story of a group of New York neighbours (some human, some monster) trying to navigate their lives through the hurdles of unemployment, aimlessness, romance, and relationships. In an apartment block on run-down Avenue Q, where Gary Coleman is superintendent and the guy upstairs is a perverted monster called Trekkie, recent college graduate Princeton starts his journey to find his true purpose in life.

With some characters played by puppets and others by actors, and a colourful and dynamic set, Avenue Q provides the audience with plenty to look at. Tiny little rat puppets dance in the background during one number, and various puppets are popping out of windows throughout the entire show. The TV screen animations on either side of the stage add another dimension to the visuals, and the catchy soundtrack of humorous songs and sound effects fits seamlessly with the aesthetics. Avenue Q’s musical numbers are typically Broadway: addictive, bombastic, and prone to staying in your head for days.

Brisbane Arts Theatre’s production of Avenue Q is professional and accomplished with no hint of an amateur effort. It maintains a quirky, raw edge that fits with the amusingly bawdy and satirical script. It is a tribute to the cast that after just a couple of minutes, the audience is able to accept the puppets as characters and see the actors as extensions of the puppets rather than separate entities. The human characters interact with the puppets with credibility and warmth. Primary puppeteers Jack Kelly, Rhiannon Moushall, and Kieran Davey do an impressive job of working their puppets, singing, dancing, and acting. Avenue Q is a demanding production and requires talent in all areas of stage-work, and these three more than pull it off. The scenes between Kelly and Davey as Rod and Nicky are realistic enough to bring a real sense of poignancy to what is for the most part a comedy.

The entire cast of this production holds its own in what is a challenging piece that requires vocal, musical, and comedic talent. Standout vocals from Maggie Thomas as Christmas Eve are a highlight, especially as she manages to sing in the hilariously stereotypical ‘Oriental’ accent. Rebecca Lindsay holds powerful stage presence as puppet Lucy the Slut. The actors are complemented by a stage crew that manages to alter the sets efficiently and without distracting the audience. The band provides the underpinning of the show—the music—with exuberance and perfect timing.

Memorable numbers are the amusingly un-PC Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist and The Internet is For Porn, Rod’s closeted insistence My Girlfriend, Who Lives in Canada, and Christmas Eve and Kate Monster’s touchingly accurate The More You Ruv Someone.

Although the Gary Coleman plot device is one that I find to be a shortcoming of the show, and rather distracting and unnecessary at times, Brisbane Arts Theatre’s production makes the best of it and exploits its absurdity. Alex Feifers hits the right note of silliness as Gary ‘Whatchu Talkin’ Bout, Willis’ Coleman.

Brisbane Arts Theatre’s production of the renowned Avenue Q is experiencing well-deserved success and seats are increasingly hard to get. I relished my first (of many, I hope) viewing of this famous show. Avenue Q comes with a litany of entertaining devices (Bad Idea Bears, anyone?) and the cast and crew of Brisbane Arts Theatre have successfully translated them to their stage. Avenue Q is a laugh-out-loud way to spend a Sunday afternoon, but don’t bring the kids unless you want them exposed to fornicating puppets!



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