Little Theatre Company
Live theatre in the heart of Burton upon Trent
by Robert Lopez & Jeff Marx Book by Jeff Whitty
Performed: June 2017
Review by Caroline Kay - The Burton Mail
A few years ago I had the enormous pleasure of interviewing a guy called Nigel Plaskitt. Who I hear you cry? Well so did I when I was asked to have a chat with him over the phone. Mr Plaskitt is a puppeteer, probably best known for working and voicing mischievous Hartley Hare from 1970s children's TV show Pipkins.
However, my interview with him was to promote the professional touring production of the award-winning musical comedy Avenue Q. Each time there is a new professional casting of the hilarious musical comedy, Mr Plaskitt is the main man who pops along and teaches the cast how to make the Muppet puppets in the show come alive.
And so, this was my first introduction to the famous New York avenue, which can only be likened to an adult version of Sesame Street. Although I didn't make it to a theatre for the last touring production of Avenue Q, the show has been on my radar ever since, so imagine my delight when Burton's own Little Theatre Company announce it as their summer show! Brilliant news - I get to see a musical I have wanted to for years, and I only have to travel to The Brewhouse Arts Centre, in Burton. Well, all I could think of "It's a lovely daaaay, on Avenue Q".
It was a brave decision for the company to take on the challenge of putting on a production which not only requires the cast to sing, act and perform the occasional soft shoe shuffle, but to also to spend the almost two hours puppeteering - which is no mean feat!
Tuesday's opening night of Avenue Q was probably the most polished productions I have seen and could quite easily be mistaken for a professional casting. American Accents were excellent, timing impeccable, great vocals and, of course, superb direction – and I would expect nothing less from director John Bowness. Full credit to those behind-the-scenes from Katie Hailstone's excellent musical direction and Katie Haywood's ever-clever choreography, to lighting, sound and stage managers – who got towards making this musical as slick and smooth as it is.
The story is a coming of age tale – Muppet style! With uber-clever music and lyrics by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx, the show follows the fortunes and failings of a group of people living in Avenue Q. They come from very different backgrounds, all with a story to tell, and the show touches on sexuality, racism, and sometimes just tells the story of why sometimes we just don't seem to fit in to what people class as the 'norm'.
Princeton (Rob Tunley), moves into Avenue Q after graduating college. He meets our heroine, the adorable Kate Monster (Heather Gallagher) whose dream is to open a "Monster School". Along her journey she falls in love with Princeton, but is her love requited? Who knows - and isn't that often the case?! Their neighbours include Japanese therapist Christmas Eve (Scarlett Marchant) who is on the brink of marrying Brian (Sam Pearson) the only "human" in the avenue; room mates Rod the Broker (Oliver Last) and Nicky (Dominic White, ably assisted by Mark Pearson); Lucy (Sarah Spencer) the sultry and sexy singer who becomes a fly in the ointment in the love affair between Kate and Princeton; superintendent of the buildings, Gary Coleman – yes that Gary Coleman of Different Strokes fame (Vicky Fryer); the hilarious Bad Idea Bears (Hannah Kirkpatrick and Craig Atkinson) - don't we all have a couple of these whispering in our ear from time to time?
And, of course, who could forget the depraved Trekkie Monster (Mike Mear assisted by Pete Banton) who rarely leaves his room, spending most of his time on the "internet". Oh, and he loves to have his picture taken in the interval – my mum posed with the hairy beast and loved every minute of it.
Quick, slick and hilarious, the show is an ensemble of riches - with a catchy score to boot. If you are no prude (the show quite rightly has a "Warning Adult Themes" attached to it) and like your humour a little risqué – then Avenue Q will be right up your strada!
Sit through it again? You bet, I'm off to the Brewhouse Box Office to bag me a ticket for Saturday's matinee!
Images from this show
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