A stroll down the avenue

cast of avenue q

Avenue Q

The New Alexandra Theatre

****

TWO words: puppet nipples. My initiation into the heady world of Avenue Q has left my brain seared with the indelible image of those knitted chest protuberances.

To return to the topic at hand, however, the Sell a Door theatre company provided a hilarious and thoroughly loveable evening’s entertainment.

A cast featuring humans, puppets and People of Fur delivered beautifully – the artistry and physical effort involved in the puppetry was impressive in this tale of growing up and the accompanying abject disillusionment. I was utterly entranced by Stephen Ardens’ performance as both Trekkie Monster and Nicky, often simultaneously.

Trekkie Monster’s wordless engagement with the audience on the ubiquity of internet porn was very well played and extremely funny. Jessica Parkers’ flawless shifting from the glamorous and awful Lucy The Slut to sweet, hopeful schoolteacher Kate Monster was done with alacrity while maintaining excellent comic timing, and such an superb voice.

The musical numbers are a spirited mix of rousing, heart-warming musicality and the triumphantly rude. When you’re making love, for example. sound-tracked two frantically copulating fabric protagonists beautifully. (Some vigorously industrious puppetering here, impressive stuff).

By this point the audience were howling so hard and so loud that Gary Coleman’s vocal was all but drowned out. Ellena Vincent’s portrayal of Gary Coleman was wonderfully engaging with her gravelly performance of Schadenfreude being a personal highlight.

I was rapidly so invested in the puppets, and the choreography was so slick, that the performers could often switch a puppet from one to another without my even noticing. Tom Steedon, as young graduate Princeton and the struggling, sexually repressed Rod, excelled at appearing almost to react to the puppet’s activities rather than be initiating them himself.

His desperate, panicked performance of My girlfriend, who lives in Canada - She's my girlfriend! My wonderful girlfriend! - was perfect. Poor Rod.

The show has some truly moving moments; Rod’s tender breakthrough moment with clientless therapist Christmas Eve (played with equal parts exasperated rage and genuine warmth by Jaqueline Tate) is very poignant. Yes, he is a puppet. No, it didn’t matter. Cressida Carre’s interpretation of this Broadway hit was fall-off-your-seat funny, with the audience thoroughly hysterical throughout. I immediately wanted to watch it all over again. To 20-09-14.

Helen Dunnington

16-09-14

Back on home turf . . .

LOCAL girl Jessica Parker had to switch to a key role on opening night of this fascinating musical when another member of the cast pulled out through illness, and what an impact she made.

The Stourbridge actress replaced Lucie-Mae Sumner as the puppeteer operating Kate Monster and Lucy the Slut in the story of life, love and political incorrectness in a downtown New York Street.

Jessica, who was originally down to play Mrs Thistletwat and Bad Idea Bear, sang beautifully, along with the entire cast of a warm, amusing and at times rather rude show which clearly has a cult following.

A large section of the audience were almost choking with laughter at some of the situations and antics created to the music and lyrics of Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx, while others – me included – simply marvelled at the skill of the black-clad puppeteers while straining to catch some of the dialogue.

At first you can’t help focusing on the humans operating the muppet-style characters and singing the range of enjoyable songs (no ventolinquism here) but in no time at all the customers turn their attention to the loveable Kate, Princeton, Nicky, Gary and the other puppets as if they were real people.

Excellent performances from Stephen Arden, Tom Steedon, Ellena Vincent and Richard Morse in an enjoyable show with a hectic puppet love scene that leaves little to the imagination.

Directed by Cressida Carre, with Grant Martin’s musical direction, Avenue Q runs to 20.09.14 

Paul Marston 

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