Review: Avenue Q, Manchester Palace Theatre

Last Tuesday I went to see Avenue Q at Manchester’s Palace Theatre as it’s currently here on its UK tour. I knew it was a musical involving puppets and was a sort of adult version of Sesame Street. What I actually saw was an incredibly hilarious, rip-roaring and down-right filthy show with wickedly catchy songs which provide a surprisingly accurate social-commentary on the world we live in. It was EXACTLY like Sesame Street if it had been run through the filter of my own filthy mind.

Avenue Q begins on a sad-looking street somewhere downtown in New York whose inhabitants are complaining about their lives and how much it sucks to be them. Enter Princeton, a fresh graduate in the big city looking for an affordable place to pop a squat and a purpose in life, thus kicking off the story.

I, first of all, have to give massive props to the puppet masters. The first person we meet is Kate Monster, a sweet but fiesty fire-cracker with dreams of opening a school just for monsters where they’d be safe from human bullies who enjoy pulling fur. Sarah Harlington provided the voice and movements of Kate Monster and she was incredible. I have to admit I spent most of my time looking at her instead of Kate Monster because she was delightful to watch. She may as well have been Kate, because she performed everything that Kate did herself and I believed every second of it. She also provided the voice and character for another integral puppet, Lucy the Slut. In scenes including both ladies, Sarah had to flick between the light, happy voice of Kate and the more sultry, provocative tones of Lucy. I was very impressed. Bravo, Sarah.

The protagonist of the show, Princeton, was given life by Richard Lowe, who is a doll in himself. Princeton is super optimistic about his life until the real world hits him like a train, and he is lumbered with bills and the looming uncertainty of what his future will hold. Richard was beautiful and the way he was when he was performing made me feel the same way that I feel when I hear someone talk about something they’re passionate about. It was crazy endearing. He was so cute! He also provided the voice of the closeted homosexual of Avenue Q, Rod; an uptight republican who is secretly in love with his room mate. Rod is a far more colourful character than vanilla Princeton and whilst being him, Richard really came to life and he was a genuine pleasure to watch. Richard is my MVP. He sparkled, and was so captivating. Two thumbs up.

The other puppet inhabitants of Avenue Q were Nicky and Trekkie Monster, both voiced hilariously by Stephen Arden. Nicky is Rod’s flatmate and best friend who is completely oblivious to Rod’s love for him. The masturbation-obsessed Trekkie is unashamedly a total perv, fully reinforced during the song ‘The Internet is for Porn’, which he hijacks from Kate Monster.

Also the Bad Idea Bears absolutely killed me and the rest of the audience. They served as the devils on the characters’ shoulders. As their title implies, they goad our heroes to do bad things… This includes convincing Kate Monster to get off her face on Long Island Iced Teas and miss her first and only day of teaching, and I almost choked to death through my tears of laughter when Princeton was moping and they suggested, ‘You could always kill yourself!’ Dear me, it was too much.

The human inhabitants of Avenue Q are hilarious couple Brian and his Japanese wife, Christmas Eve, played by Richard Morse and Arina Il, both of whom I have to give special props to because they were incredible and their married chemistry was so much fun to watch. Especially Arina, playing the race card hard, which was played up in the scarily accurate song ‘Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist’, which pokes fun at casual racism, and looks at it from every side of the coin. It sounds from the title a little uncouth, but YouTube it and you’ll have it stuck in your head for days because it’s catchy as hell.

The other human on the street is the superintendent, Gary Coleman – yes, that Gary Coleman – played wonderfully by Etisya Philip.

The show was absolutely hysterical. I honestly haven’t laughed as hard at something in a very long time. I never in my life thought I would see a puppet sex show as filthy as the one in Team America: World Police but I was definitely mistaken. It was FILTH! So, so, so, so, soooo funny, and so inappropriate! The entire show, not just the puppet coitus! I loved it so much!

I’m going to give Avenue Q 10 out of 10! Top work! The mechanics of the show were amazing and crazy impressive. The show is currently touring around the UK and you can see where and get tickets on the ATG website. Go see it!

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