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Avenue Q - Milton Keynes Theatre

Published by: Alison Smith on 16th May 2016 | View all blogs by Alison Smith

Reviewed by Alison Smith

If you thought humans and foam puppets, together, on stage, would be a complete catastrophe, you were wrong. The musical Avenue Q proves this. What the puppets do is allow the actors freedom to be silly, shocking and shameless. The actors are not ventriloquists; they act, sing and move along with the puppets. The show – a long running Broadway production created by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx – is in places funny and in others lewd, but still relevant to personal quandaries. What actual use is my degree?  Can I pay the rent this month? Am I gay? But in 2016 Avenue Q is dated as social satire; such stereotypical characters have long been laughed at (and with), have long challenged our preconceptions and attitudes, and  have long provided easy solutions to the difficulties of being human.

 Avenue Q is the street where the characters live – think Sesame Street with swearing – and the story line is the adventures of Princeton (Richard Love) in his postgrad world of self-doubt and torments, searching for his purpose in life. In his new abode he meets a succession of characters – Brian, an aspiring comedian, (Richard Morse) and his girlfriend Christmas Eve, an unemployed therapist,  (Ariana Li), Rod, a gay  banker (Richard Love) and his straight flatmate Nicky  (Stephen Arden), Trekkie Monster – he lives up to his name -  raunchy Lucy and sweet Kate ( Sarah Harlington) and the caretaker, (Etisyai Philip). The action is centred on the relationship between Princeton and Kate, but supplemented with comments on the wider society, including sexuality, pornography and racism. Just eleven actors portray all the characters, yet still give the feeling of a crowded inner-city street. The actors segue into the different characters; Sarah Harlington changes from girl-next-door (Kate) to harlot (Lucy) seamlessly. Stephen Arden’s two roles are clearly created by his voice adaptations.

 The puppets, created by Paul Jomain, are gaudy– green, yellow, and blue – and the monster puppets, hairy; the actors are dressed somberly so as not to distract from their charges. The puppets and the characters ignore the puppeteers, who become invisible to the audience too. Occasionally one puppet even has two puppeteers and at times a puppeteer may be animating one puppet while voicing another. The songs are verbally entertaining, especially I’m Not Wearing Underwear Today, It Sucks to Be Me and There’s a Fine, Fine Line. The music for the show is provided by a live band led energetically by Dean McDermott. The cast are talented – they can act, sing and puppeteer. The negative aspect of this musical is that the material is dated; if the actors (and puppets) were given more relevant subject matter, the outcome would be a fantastic musical, not just a mediocre one.

At MK Theatre until Saturday 21st May

0844 871 7652

Booking fee applies




1 Comment

  • Cameron Lowe
    by Cameron Lowe 2 years ago
    Thanks, Alison. I saw this show about 5 years ago and loved it but I could understand your position on the material dating badly. I'm curious to see it again now to reassess!
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