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Avenue Q, Wolverhampton Grand Theatre - review with pictures

There are some fundamental questions that anybody who’s ever sat through Sesame Street or The Muppets will inevitably ponder.

Avenue Q
Avenue Q

Just what is going on with Eric and Ernie? Why does nobody care that Oscar the Grouch lives in a rubbish bin, and would more people be willing to help him if he wasn’t clearly suffering with some kind of personality disorder?

How is it that a pig and a frog can have children? How are all the girls pigs and all the boys frogs? What is Miss Piggy not telling us? It’s a biological nightmare of Big Bird proportions, and I don’t mind saying it has kept me up many a night.

Enter Avenue Q. Homosexuality, racism, suicide – these puppets are not afraid to tackle the big issues. The Count might help you get up to 10, but this is a show that will teach you some very interesting uses for the internet that I’m sure you won’t have considered.

The writing is stellar, cleverly combining the innocent atmosphere of children’s television with adult themes, and that is why it has stayed one of the most talked about musicals of the last twenty years. It is also very funny. It’s no good being clever if you can’t get a laugh, but Avenue Q has hundreds of people in fits of laughter pretty constantly for two hours.

Avenue Q

The music is catchy as well. There’s not a weak song in the batch and they’ll definitely get stuck in your head. That last thing might not be a good thing, because you’ll definitely find yourself singing Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist in the checkout line in Tesco.

There’s a good reason why, since 2003, it has continuously drawn crowds. It would be easy to write for days about why it is still one of the most popular musicals, but critics have been doing that for over 15 years now. As a concept, as a musical, as two hours of entertainment – it is just very, very good. If you’ve never seen Avenue Q, you owe it to yourself to check it out.

Avenue Q

And this current tour is the perfect chance to do it. The cast are incredible – about as close to the original Broadway cast as can be, while adding their own little quirks. The entire ensemble can really play to an audience, bigging up the jokes that are working and playing to the larger-than-life feel that the puppets give off.

It is hard to appreciate just how much work those puppets must be for the cast, and the best compliment I can give them is that they make it look effortless. It is difficult to explain the effect that seeing them operate the puppets, seeing their lips move, seeing their feet dancing to the tunes has.

Avenue Q

You’re watching the puppets, but looking to the actor for the depth, for the emotion that the “main cast” just can’t offer.

A slip-up could easily destroy the illusion, and so credit to the original writers and to the cast that you believe from the very start.

Avenue Q

The singing is excellent and so are the musicians. I didn’t hear a duff note all night.

Lawrence Smith and Cecily Redman lead a very talented ensemble, and they have both got some serious chops. Watch out for both of them.

Avenue Q

It says a lot about Avenue Q that despite it being very quirky, more than a bit naughty and quietly cynical, that it managed to get to be so mainstream.

But even though it is so popular it still manages to retain its edge. It is still a very pleasant surprise, and this current tour more than does it justice.

Avenue Q is at the Wolverhampton Grand until Saturday.

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