Avenue Q

11th to 15th April 2023

Music and Lyrics by Robert Lopez & Jeff Marx, Book by Jeff Whitty | Brewhouse Arts Centre | Directed by John Bowness

I first reviewed a professional tour of this outrageous musical back in early 2019 shortly after setting up TheatreWhippet. It has lost none of its charm and ability to shock and amuse since then. This amateur production, staged by the excellent Little Theatre Company and currently running at the Brewhouse Arts Centre in Burton upon Trent, is slick and crammed with professional standard talent. Directed by John Bowness, it promises hilarious gut-busting adult humour and certainly delivered on opening night.

The characters in Avenue Q are mainly puppets, skilfully operated and voiced by the cast. Princeton is a bright-eyed college graduate searching for his purpose in life. His limited budget leads him to Avenue Q, a run-down area on the outskirts of New York, and a mixed community of people and monsters who help him to find himself and his elusive purpose.

The show won the Tony ‘Triple Crown’ for Best Musical, Best Score and Best Book which should reassure you if you’re not convinced. Warnings of adult humour (and puppet nudity!) should be heeded by parents considering taking younger teenagers along although Avenue Q could be the perfect way to open up important conversations about sex, racism and healthy relationships at home.

Although inspired by Sesame Street, we’re a long way from the gentle humour of the popular 1970s American children’s show. Hit musical numbers explore a wide range of themes including sexuality (“If You Were Gay”), pornography (“The Internet is for Porn”) and racism (“Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist”).

At the show’s heart is the slowly developing relationship between Princeton and Kate Monster. Ollie Last’s Princeton is full of wide-eyed optimism and charm and there’s a gentle chemistry between him and Heather Gallagher’s wonderfully idealistic and lonely kindergarten teaching assistant Kate Monster. The chemistry is not quite so gentle, however, in one hilarious X-rated scene once the pair have succumbed to the sordid suggestions of the Bad Ideas Bears, played with mischievous glee by Charlotte Davis and Beth Fryer.

The fractious but ultimately enduring friendship between roommates Rod and Nicky is beautifully captured by Joel Kirkpatrick and Dom White: the performance of “Fantasies Come True” providing one of the night’s gentler and more moving moments. Emmie Doyle’s rendition of Christmas Eve’s ‘The More You Ruv Someone’ is a vocal highlight and Hannah Kirkpatrick serves sexy sass as Lucy the Slut.

“The Internet is for Porn” is one of the show’s best-known songs: Nathan Pocock’s porn-addicted Trekkie Monster delivers it with a knowing smutty smile in a filthily charming performance which won the first night audience over. Other Avenue Q residents - Paul Webb’s Brian, Daisy Parker’s Gary Coleman and Louis Shorthouse’s Mrs T - are equally strong, united by Heather Gallagher’s slick choreography.

Little Theatre Company rise to the considerable challenge of staging this hit musical. It’s a brave choice for any amateur company, demanding as it does puppeteering skills in addition to singing, acting and dancing. They pull it off in a puppet-filled evening of mischief, guaranteed laughs and a little fur-inspired food for thought. Highly recommended. Book now to avoid disappointment.

Avenue Q is playing at the Brewhouse Arts Centre in Burton upon Trent from 11th to 15th April 2023.