Stephanie Scott reviews Avenue Q at The Palace Theatre
On the evening I went to see Avenue Q, I had three days left of my English Literature degree – and I didn’t realise quite how pertinent this would make the musical feel. Based upon the post-graduation adventures of Princeton, the puppet-based show his a hilarious portrayal of the difficulties of succeeding in the – eh hum – ‘Real World’, and finding your purpose in life after education has run its course. For a soon to be graduate, despite the humour and fun, Avenue Q deftly articulates that terrified anticipation and the anti-climax that can be felt once your university degree finishes.
Avenue Q is a show that seems to carry itself. I can imagine that, even if it were performed in the smallest venue, with little in the way of set or lighting, the script and the cast would carry the show despite the lack of background additions. From songs that inspires belly-laughs, such as ‘The Internet is for Porn’ and ‘Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist’, to the more moving ‘I Wish I Could Go Back to College’ and ‘There’s a Fine, Fine Line’ the musical aspect of the show is diverse and hugely fun for the audience. With no lack of energy in between numbers, Avenue Q keeps pace and holds audience interest for its duration – a fantastic quality for a touring show that cannot rely on West End budgets and resources.
On a completely technical level, Avenue Q is innovative, skilful and wickedly clever, as the performers act with their own bodies, as well as controlling their puppet counterpoints. Jessica Parker, who played a Bad Idea Bear, Mrs T and additional puppeting roles was particularly impressive; all her movements were fluid and effortless while she maintained character, and when she and Stephen Arden were jointly performing as Rod their synchronisation was flawless. Here I must take a moment to mention the puppet makers themselves – without their ingenuity and craftsmanship Avenue Q would not be the incredible show it is.
Perhaps my only criticism would be the use of television screens in the performance – those at The Palace were too small to convey the message to everyone in the audience, and I’ve heard that those in the West End are not usually much bigger. However, this did not dampen the effect of the performance as a whole and, for its humour, technical skill and relatable qualities, Avenue Q is now definitely one of my favourite musicals.
5 out of 5 stars