Touring – reviewed at the New Wimbledon Theatre, London
I do love Avenue Q. It was one of the first musicals that I fell in love with after moving to London, tracking it throughout its West End-theatre hopping run with multiple visits and then popping in here and there to catch the occasional touring version. And it is a show to which my reactions have shifted: 13 years ago when I first saw it, its quarter-life crisis was directly recognisable; a little way down the line now, I’m the one saying ‘these kids are so much younger than me’ about this youthful company!
Premiering in 2003, the show – music and lyrics by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx and book by Jeff Whitty – benefited hugely from coming into life in a slightly more innocent pre-social media time, a moment when Generation X didn’t face half as much opprobrium as millennia are forced to shoulder nowadays. And revisiting the show now, as this Sell A Door production kicks off a major UK tour scheduled to last most of the year, it is just lovely to be reminded of simpler times, of such uncomplicated good feeling.
Director and choreographer Cressida Carré has got it just right here, injecting a fresh sense of energy but one which respects that this material still needs very little tinkering. Its after-hours Sesame Street format remains as sharply observant as ever, as it picks away at how little university prepares us for the harsher truths of real life, yet always remaining fondly affectionate about the gaining of that experience. Getting wasted, getting laid, getting fired, sometimes all within 24 hours – there’s just so much truth about city living here!
And I may be bitter at how young they are, the cast are certainly on top of their game. Tom Steedon as Nicky and Trekkie is brilliantly assured as both characters, Lawrence Smith (fresh from an excellent turn in Brass last year) impresses as Princeton and Rod and Saori Oda’s Christmas Eve is a fantastically garish comic presence. And if I say Cecily Redman could afford to be a bit looser and loucher to differentiate Lucy the Slut from her sweetly poised Kate Monster, it’s only because I’m (unfairly) comparing her to Julie Atherton’s iconic original interpretation.
A treat then, to be able to revisit a show that is still in remarkably good shape and in these hands, looks set to win over a whole new generation of fans.