3 November 2007 – Noel Coward Theatre, London
Take a left past Sesame Street and keep on going until you are deep into the back streets of New York, and you will stumble into Avenue Q. Sesame street’s older, wiser and sexually charged twin town. Princeton arrives to the neighbourhood, fresh from college with eyes-wide in awe to the only affordable area, but it’s not long until he too becomes disillusioned with life. He arrives on the surreal street, where child star Gary Colman makes his post-fame living as a handy-man and the cookie-monster of Sesame Street has replaced his insatiable desire for cookies with porn. Comparisons with Sesame Street do not end there, Bert and Ernie’s questionable relationship is voiced in the characters of Rod and Nicky where the hidden homosexual feelings are exposed. Created as a labour of love, the show was conceived by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx, who worked as a member of the Sesame Street crew. It’s almost a fly-on-the-wall of what the staff parties might have been like on the Sesame Street set, where the puppeteers could make the puppets act out their secret juvenile jokes.
Although it’s a familiar plot; following Princeton while he discovers that life is not as easy as college, as he looses his way while struggling to find his ‘purpose’. On the way, the audience and actor’s immaturity is indulged, with puppet sex-scenes and numbers about porn; “The internet’s for porn”. But the show also makes sharp satirical points with “Everyone’s a little bit rascist” where Kate Monster and Princeton sing; “Ethnic jokes might be uncouth / but you laugh because they’re based on truth. / Don’t take them as personal attacks. Everyone enjoys them – So relax!”
The actors make no pretence that they are controlling the puppets, and do so masterfully. Each actor embodies the character, adding emotion and expression to the gormless puppet faces. They carry the performance with joyful ease, relishing the opportunities in the show for immature fun.
Although the show is simplistic in its plot and humour, it is engages the audience and pulls them into to their dark, playful humour in this flippant and easily enjoyable musical comedy.