Avenue Q at The Alexandra, Birmingham

Avenue Q, the seriously adult puppet musical, has landed at The Alexandra in Birmingham.

Avenue Q
Credit – Matt Martin

Avenue Q takes place in the down and out area of Avenue Q in New York City, following the story of college graduate Princeton (Lawrence Smith) as he navigates love, friendship and finding some purpose in the adult world.

The musical is populated with a mix of human and puppet characters, each more outrageous than the last. There’s sweet teacher Kate Monster (Cecily Redman), who dreams of opening her own school for monsters. There’s room-mates, up-tight Rod (Lawrence Smith) and slacker Nicky (Tom Steedon), (a clear spoof of the beloved Bert and Ernie), who are struggling to live together, especially as Nicky suspects his old friend is hiding a big secret. There’s dodgy neighbour, Trekkie Monster (Tom Steedon), who spends his time surfing the net for some very specific tastes. There’s newlyweds, failed comedian Brian (Oliver Stanley) and Japanese immigrant and struggling therapist Christmas Eve (Saori Oda), who just want to pay the bills. There’s sexpot chanteuse, Lucy The Slut (Cecily Redman), and finally Superintendent of the block, Gary Coleman (Nicholas Mclean). Yes, that Gary Coleman.

Avenue Q cast
Credit – Matt Martin

Avenue Q is Sesame Street ramped up to 11, and with some serious adult content. The show takes aim in an equal opportunities manner, poking fun at and offending just about everyone. With songs including ‘Everyone’s A Little Bit Racist’, ‘The Internet Is For Porn’, and ‘The More You Ruv Someone’, this show is not for the faint of heart or the prudish. Expect puppet on puppet action, jokes about race, and a lot of talk about Trekkie’s porn habit.

The show is not just a romp of slapstick and crude humour though. You’ll find yourself deeply invested in the blossoming love story between Kate and Princeton, and maybe even shed a little tear during Kate’s song, ‘There’s A Fine, Fine Line.’ This ode to the end of a relationship should be in the pantheon of iconic musical ballads, despite being sung by a puppet. The bittersweet tale of unrequited love between Rod and Nicky will tug at your heartstrings too. The show has a surprisingly warm heart, and really does portray an accurate experience of being young, broke and confused.

Kate Monster
Credit – Matt Martin

The set is ingenious, with characters appearing in different windows throughout the show. The interior of each apartment is represented by fold down panels in the set, showing a miniature version of the character’s homes.

The skills displayed by the cast will blow you away. Not only do they sing, dance and act, they do it all while controlling a puppet. Several of the actors play multiple characters, and watching them switch seamlessly between puppets, mannerisms and voices is incredibly impressive. Particularly impressive is Tom Steedon, who plays Nicky, Trekkie and a Bad Idea Bear. Each of his characters has a distinctive, and very different, voice. His accent work is marvellous.

Trekkie Monster
Credit – Matt Martin

The puppets are brought to life beautifully, and you find yourself forgetting they’re not actually human. Meanwhile, the actual human cast hold their own amongst their colourful felt co-stars. Oda as Christmas Eve is a highlight, with expertly timed physical comedy.

Avenue Q is brilliant fun, and often surprisingly touching. If you want to see a show that is a mad cross between Friends and some sort of after dark version of The Muppets, you need to see Avenue Q.

Avenue Q is at The Alexandra until Saturday 16 February. Grab your tickets here.

I attended the press reception for Avenue Q as a plus one of Brum Hour. I wasn’t obliged to write anything, but I loved the show and wanted to share.