Eden Court, Inverness
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IT would be easy to say you just downright loved Avenue Q’s slice of sassiness from the opening lines and the way it points a finger at the many tired cliches of the traditional big musical – but then it plays most of them out anyway.
But at first, just the sight of the actors and their puppets onstage at Eden Court on Tuesday’s opening night took most of your attention in Sell A Door’s production of the Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx triple Tony winner.
Once the actors began to fade into the background, your eyes and ears concentrated on the puppet characters and the story of new graduate Princeton, his new friends on New York’s slightly grotty Avenue Q, plus his search for a purpose in life.
The audience loved the rain of songs that started immediately. It Sucks To Be Me introduced us to Princeton’s love interest Kate Monster and her hopes of setting up a school for monsters, oriental therapist Christmas Eve and her love-hate relationship with lazy would-be comedian Brian, an actress playing Gary Coleman the child actor from 80s US TV hit Diff’rent Strokes who rents out rooms to earn a living, Trekkie Monster who is an internet porn addict plus male room-mates Nicky and closet gay Rod.
Straight away, the musical starts to poke fun at some bigger targets as well as the usual musical themes such as the boy trying to get the girl and vice versa, dreams coming true, benefiting from all the rewards hard work was supposed to get you when every American had a dream.
But even that dream’s not guaranteed any more. Princeton asks as soon as he arrives outside his new home "… what do you do with a BA in English?" And Brian, who is 10 years out of college, doesn’t hold out much hope for the big-time getting closer: "I thought I would be king of comedy on late night TV, but as you can see – I’m not".
The characters have all the big-eyed, furry charm of the Sesame Street gang, but are constantly confronted by adult realities. Political correctness and racism are tackled at the same time in the strangely jaunty Everyone’s A Little Bit Racist. The fear of coming out is lightly handled in If You Were Gay, but most fun is Trekkie Monster’s big number The Internet Is For Porn. That’s if you don’t count Kate and Princeton’s every-which-way sex scene. Or the come-uppance of buxom, hair-swooshing femme fatale Lucy – one of the audience’s favourite characters and helping to earn puppeteer/ actor Lucie-Mae Sumner the biggest applause of the night.
"There’s a fine, fine line between real and pretend," sings Kate.
Avenue Q’s world is a lot closer to ours – its insecurities, fears and struggles – than most rainbow-hued all-singing, all-dancing alternative realities of Musicalworld.
But you need to beware the show’s most loveable characters, the Bad Idea Bears with their cuddly fur and all-too-dangerous temptations – from too many innocent-sounding Long Island Iced Teas to a rather more serious noose when you’re feeling low.
Catch a really original idea for a show seductively-staged in Avenue Q.
As the show reminds you – everything’s only for now. Grab it while you can – and that’s just two shows today (Tuesday), folks!
Avenue Q is at Eden Court today (Tuesday) with shows at 2pm and 8pm.