Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Avenue Q - Supa Productions

Review by John Lombard

Avenue Q is Sesame Street for grown-ups, or at least for people in their early 20s: sure, you've mastered the alphabet, but now you need to somehow translate that BA in English into a career.

This is a musical that should be ageing - characters are wide-eyed about the potential of the internet as a source of pornography, and Gary Coleman is not only alive, but stars in the show as a superintendent.

But somehow Princeton's (Nick Valois) struggle to find a job, let alone a purpose, is even more relevant in the world of the Global Financial Crisis, exploding housing prices, and President Trump.

It helps that the musical tackles real issues, with the puppets confronting unemployment, their sexualities, homelessness, and in one hilarious scene, the drunken one-night stand.  Next to that, the absence of modern challenges like the unwanted Facebook friend request or the drunken Tinder (or Grinder) binge are easily forgiven.

The puppet work in the show is a constant delight, whether the bickering of Bert and Ernie analogues Rod (Joel Hitchings) and Nicky (Dave Smith), the sweet as nails Kate Monster (Emma McCormack), or the slinky and appropriately named Lucy T Slut (Josie Dunham).

Director Jarrad West is in his element with the bright, witty material, keeping the pace manic and energy levels high.

The humans in the cast are also very satisfying, with bold and dynamic performances from Joanna Francis as Gary Coleman, Riley Bell as aspirational comedian Brian, and Nina Wood as unsuccessful therapist Christmas Eve.

While the musical makes a joke about how everyone is a little bit racist, I did wonder about the casual racism in the character Christmas Eve.  The role calls for an out-of-date Asian stereotype that can only exclude some of the show's potential audience.  Is the point here that everyone's a bit racist so we shouldn't try to be any better?

The show also sports some very funny pre-recorded segments, with the impressive amount of work that had gone into them earning extra laughs from the audience.

In the end Avenue Q is a delight: engaging, funny, and clever - a perfect night of entertainment.