Word to the wise: if you feel the need, which you surely will, to sing one of the many insanely catchy songs from Avenue Q in public, choose very carefully. This warning goes double when at work or at a family gathering. With titles including: “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist” and “The Internet is for Porn” ranking among this quirky comedy’s most beloved musical numbers, Avenue Q is by no means a show for the easily offended. Lovers of political correctness, you have been warned!
Following the story of protagonist Princeton, a recent graduate taking his first steps into the real world of job-hunting, paying rent, and trying desperately to work out his purpose in life. It’s difficult not to wonder if Avenue Q’s Glasgow run taking place during Graduation Week has just a hint of cruel yet humorous irony about it. Congratulations, you made it through college! If you thought the last four years were tough, then buckle up!
Inspired by the real-life experiences of creators Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx, and driven by the combined powers of director and choreographer Cressida Carré, as well as musical director Dean McDermott, Avenue Q brings a touch of levity and hope to a series of often dark and sensitive themes. Disillusionment, poverty, racism and repressed sexuality, among other subjects, all receive the full treatment here with catchy tunes and bright, fuzzy puppets abound.
While the puppeteers themselves are visible throughout the performance, the voices and movements they give to their respective characters are more than convincing enough to let them blend seamlessly in. There is no mistaking that the puppets are the stars of the show, as they should be. Notable exceptions to this rule are the very human, very non-puppet characters Brian, Christmas Eve, and Gary Coleman, all of whom are well-matched to their felted counterparts in vivid colour and energy.
Throughout the collective journey of this motley crew of neighbours and friends, there is something that the majority of, if not all, the audience can relate to in the show: Princeton’s struggle in balancing his search for a purpose in life with the everyday challenges of making ends meet; Kate’s unwavering determination to start her own Monster School; Christmas Eve’s quest to put her two Masters degrees to proper use. Moreover, it is impossible to not be moved by Rod’s aggressive denial of his homosexuality, scandalised by Trekkie Monster’s salacious hobbies, sympathetic to Brian’s unemployment, or reduced to stitches by Gary’s sassy comebacks.
By and large, Avenue Q succeeds in being by turns sweet, outrageous, saucy and, most crucially, hysterically funny. Viewers can look forward to leaving the theatre with a warm, fuzzy feeling, in all of the wrong ways… or right ways, depending on their outlook.