★★★★ | Avenue Q, National Tour
Fresh out of college, looking for somewhere to live and clutching his useless degree, Princeton arrives on Avenue Q, where he meets affable (if lazy) Nicky, his closeted gay roommate, Rod, and Kate, a nursery teacher with big ambitions. The gang try and navigate the trials and tribulations of life, whilst discovering what the internet is really for, why taking a date to a strip club is a bad idea (especially on a school night) and why you should never throw a coin off the top of the Empire State Building.
At one point in the story, Rod settles in to read his favourite book, Broadway Musicals of the 1940’s, and if you part the fur on this show a little, you will find that underneath it all, Avenue Q is very much a traditional musical at heart, with a will they/wont they love story, a sultry love rival and some ups and downs along the way. One of its particular strengths is in its beautifully crafted musical numbers, which flip between a good excuse for a laugh (The Internet is for Porn) and sweeping songs which progress the narrative (There’s a Fine, Fine Line).
The script remains sharp and funny, with a rapid fire delivery of gags, and a story which nestles a number of social issues into the comedy without ever preaching. Rod struggles to come out of the closet, and his ode to his best friend (and secret crush) is filled with sadness. Princeton is a little lost in life, Kate feels that she is destined for bigger things and the perverted Trekkie Monster spends his day, shall we say, (ahem) socially isolated.
With many of the cast playing multiple roles, Tom Steedon steals most of the laughs as Trekkie Monster and Nicky; whilst Cecily Redman belts out the musical numbers with a stirring voice; and the cast effortlessly bring the puppets to life, to the point where you find yourself more focussed on the puppets than the actors.
If you have ever wondered what an adult version of Sesame Street might look like, then Avenue Q has the answer. The show remains laugh out loud funny, with some close to the knuckle humour which perfectly blends comedy with poignancy to leave you feeling warm and fuzzy inside.