Avenue Q


Presented by Matt Byrne Media
Reviewed Thursday 7th July 2011

Venue: ARTS Theatre, Angas Street, Adelaide
Season: 8pm Tues to Sat through to Saturday 16th July 2011, with 2pm matinees on Saturdays
Duration: 2hrs 25 mins incl interval
Tickets: adult $30/conc $25/Groups 10+ adult $28 and conc $22
Bookings: 8262 4906 or [email protected] or BASS 131 246 or or Venuetix outlets

[After the Adelaide season the production moves to the Shedley Theatre at Elizabeth at 8pm from 21st to 23rd and 28th to 30th July, with 2pm Saturday matinees.]

Director, Matt Byrne, has taken on a big challenge in attempting to stage an amateur production of a work that was playing here professionally not long ago to great acclaim, and that quickly developed a cult following. The laughter and applause running throughout the opening night performance declared it a resounding success. Byrne has found a great cast, right through to the minor roles, and has created a show with plenty of pace, lots of enthusiasm, and the cast show that they are all having a ball performing.

Musical Director, Peter Johns, has a very fine, small orchestra in the pit and has also done some excellent work with the cast so that, musically, this is a terrific show. Choreographer Rebecca Payne ensures that there is plenty of movement to complement the musical side of the production. This is a feast for the senses, with song, dance and the colourful sets and puppets, controlled with great skill by their marvellous operators/actors/singers.

Princeton is a rather lost soul, his new college degree in his hand and looking for a job, a purpose in life and, most urgently, a place to live. He asks a question that many university graduates must have found themselves asking; What Do You Do with a BA in English? He has slowly moved down market from the better end of town looking for a place that he can afford and he has now reached Avenue Q, where Gary Coleman is the caretaker of a vacant building. Princeton moves in and soon becomes involved in the lives of his neighbours.

David Salter is the human half of Princeton, bringing plenty of fun and some superb singing to his character as he progressively discovers that real life in the big wide world is not at all what he was led to expect and his degree has not really prepared him for anything. As he meets his neighbours he finds that they are just as dissatisfied with life, as they each sing It Sucks to be Me.

Alisa James plays the ex-child star, Gary Coleman (who was actually asked to play himself when the work was written), with plenty of endearingly lively humour in her performance.

Princeton not only finds a home and friends, he soon finds true love. Amy Hutchinson is vivacious and energetic as the lonely teacher's aide, Kate Monster, who falls for Princeton and is thrilled to find that he falls for her, too. Their work together makes a real connection.

There are some other fascinating people living in the neighbourhood. The Odd Couple neighbours are Nicky and Rod. Nicky lets Rod know that he will always be his friend, no matter what, in If You Were Gay, but Rod denies any accuracy in that implication. Michael Williams and Dirk Strachan play Nicky and Rod and add loads of laughs to the production as Rod tried to hide the truth form Nicky, and himself, and Nicky continues to support him.

Then there are the would-be stand up comedian, Brian, and his Asian fiancée, Christmas Eve. With a combination of humans, of various nationalities, and assorted monsters, a few thoughtless comments lead into the song, Everyone's a Little Bit Racist. Rohan Watts is Brian and Megan Humphries plays Christmas Eve, both adding a lot to the production musically and comically. Adelaide has several large Asian communities, which does make one wonder why one could not be found for this role, unless, that is, Byrne was deliberately going for caricature with this role.

Upstairs there is the Internet addicted Trekkie Monster. As Kate tries to sing of the importance of the Internet to education, Trekkie continually interrupts, informing us that The Internet is for Porn. The Bad Idea Bears drop past occasionally, causing trouble, and there is the cabaret singer, Lucy T. Slut, who seduces Princeton, then dumps him.

Kim Clark is a sensational Trekkie, making the most of every appearance. Michael Bates and Amy Klar get the most out of their roles as agents provocateurs and Tegan Gully is a sexy and sultry torch singer as Lucy. Everybody in the cast contributes their all to the laughs, the singing and, of course, the often ribald comedy.

The only problems with this show are technical, with a briefly noisy microphone, that then failed, and another that failed near the end of the show. These were only minor irritations compared to probably the worst lighting operation I have ever seen. Lighting changes were continually late, or incorrect, and follow spots failed to follow. It is a shame that such a good performance should suffer from such grossly incompetent technical work. One can only hope that the stage manager had plenty to say about it afterwards and that there is a drastic improvement.

For those who have never seen this show, be advised, it is definitely not for children, as a few people found out on opening night. I can only imagine the embarrassing time they had on the way home, fielding questions from their children. It definitely isn't Sesame Street. It has strong language, sexual references, is politically very incorrect, and it also contains an hilarious sex scene that you'll never forget. You can get away with absolutely anything, it seems, if you say it through a puppet.

If you want a great night out, with a loads of laughs and some great songs, then this is production for you. There's no better way to shake off the winter blues than a walk down Avenue Q.

Reviewed by Barry Lenny, Arts Editor, Glam Adelaide.

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