Wednesday, 22 February 2017

“Avenue Q” by Encore
Nottingham Arts Theatre.
Puppets, songs, a heart-warming story of a graduate fresh out of university looking to find his purpose in life – and finding a girl along the way. A show that’s fun for all the family.
Wrong! Very wrong!
Avenue Q is enormous fun but with songs like ‘The Internet (is for porn)’ and a puppet sex scene (which is hilarious by the way), this show is strictly for adults and in no way like any puppet show at any kids party I’ve been to.
The show centres on Princeton, an arts graduate and therefore out of a job (What do you do with a BA in English). Trying to find a cheap enough place to rent, he finds on Avenue Q and meets a host of wonderful characters.
These including Kate Monster who dreams of opening her own monster school, the humans Brian and Christmas Eve, and Gary Coleman – the child actor off Different Strokes who is now down on his luck and the superintendent at Avenue Q. ( I don’t think it’s giving anything away by saying that this isn’t THE Gary Coleman). A porn obsessed monster, a couple of male puppet characters who live together, a pair of little bears who keep coming up with "fun" ideas and a buxom lady puppet who relishes in her own independence, if you know what I mean.
The actors behind these puppets, some of whom were new to puppetry, and I can only imagine that acting, singing, dancing and not really being the focus of the audience, and still going through the full realm of visual expressions your puppet is expressing, can't be the easiest of acting jobs.
You focus on the puppet characters and not the actor but can't help appreciate the talent the actor behind the puppet has.
There are some very funny, and non PC songs here and, even though I've seen the show three times previously and know the soundtrack well, this show still makes me laugh loudly as if it were a new show to me. Songs like "Everyone's A little Bit Racist", "The Internet Is For Porn" and "If You Were Gay" sit well alongside love songs like "There's A Fine Fine Line".
There were a couple of new additions to the show which kept it topical and the use of the two TV screens which gave the feel of the American style kids TV programmes like "Sesame Street".
Every single actor on that stage deserved every round of applause they received at the end.
Rob Charles (Princeton), Anna McAuley (Kate Monster), Mark Coffey-Bainbridge and Lucy
Castle (Nicky), Matt Powell (Rod), John Lowe and Becky Lane (Trekkie Monster), Cathy Hyde (Christmas Eve), Simon Collington (Brian), Maya Thompson (Gary Coleman), Sandy C Lane (Mrs T), Siân Scattergood (Lucy The Slut) and Katie MacDonald and Lucas Young as The Bad Idea Bears were all excellent. Even director Adam Guest made an appearance on stage with the new puppet kid in town.
The music,as only to be expected from the calibre of the band, Sam Griffiths, who was also MD, Gemma Marshall, Tim Wright, Jeff WiddowsonBen Ward and Jack Helan.
A brilliant set, which hits you as soon as you walk through the theatre doors, an amazing cast, wonderful band. Come on this show is every bit as good as the touring production, as close to the perfect production as you're ever going to get.
Director Adam Guest and producer/MD Sam Griffiths have pushed the bar for local theatre up yet again. I have an idea about the hard work they and their cast put in to every production, but the results speak for themselves.
This was not a night at the theatre reviewing for me tonight. This was a night out watching some very talented friends on stage entertaining to the very best of their abilities. Top that with catching up with some lovely, just as talented people off stage before the show, for me this was a wonderfully relaxing night of un PC entertainment.
Princeton may have been looking for his purpose in life, but Encore Performing Arts found their purpose as being one of the regions best local theatre companies. A group who just get better every production. A group who are constantly attracting more actors into their fold due to their excellent
name. A group who you need to see. A group I'm proud to shout about.
Many questions are asked, and matters raised as a serious undercurrent to the laughter. One question I couldn't find an answer for though was, why was I the only one to give a standing ovation to a group who pulled everything out of the bag tonight. the show was flawless and deserved nothing less.
If you can get a ticket, get one and buy one for your friend as well, while there are still seats left.
The company are also collecting for local charity Framework so the homeless will benefit from this amazing show.
"Avenue Q" will be right up your street and you can see if I'm not right by going to see it yourself until Saturday 25 February 2017 at the Nottingham Arts Theatre on George Street, Nottingham.

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