Wednesday, 18 October 2017

“Avenue Q” by Gatepost Theatre Company
Guildhall Theatre, Derby.
Sesame Street for adults is one description of this musical where the stars are puppets. Well we all know that actors have a hand in this somewhere but when done well your eyes focus on the puppet stars of the show and you don’t notice the actors behind the puppets, which is the way it should be.
Having seen both professional and local theatre productions, I know what a brilliantly funny and ever so slightly naughty show this is.And like seeing a favourite old film, it just gets better the more you see it.
The show is a lot more difficult than it may first appear and timing for the show is vital, as well as synchronicity when you have two actors controlling the same puppet. There's more to think about for these actors than may first meet the eye, or mouth! Physically, it's also not an easy ask for the actors.
Gatepost are now into their 13th year, and while 13 could be classed as unlucky, for this group, 13 isn’t unlucky for Gatepost, especially with this production.
“Avenue Q” is the story of a group of twenty-somethings looking for their purpose in life. Recently graduated from college Princeton, moves into an apartment all the way out on Avenue Q, New York. There, he meets Kate (the girl next door), Rod (the Republican), Trekkie (the specialist movie expert), Lucy The Slut and other colourful types.
There's the relationship between flat mates Rod and Nicky, Princeton and Kate Monster and Princeton and Lucy, and the very real relationship between the only two actual human characters Christmas Eve and Bryan. And then there's The Trekkie Monster (always been my favourite) with his relationship with his hard drive!!
And just when you think all is going well, along come the naughty Bad idea Bears. Wonder why they are called that?
Kate Monster (Kirsty Vastenavondt), Princeton (Christopher Collington), Brian (Chris Bryan), Christmas Eve (Gemma Ryan), Gary Coleman (Josephine Pearson), Nicky (Dan Collington and Mina Machin), Rod (Simon Collington), Trekkie Monster (Richard Pearson and Ryan Taylor), Lucy (Laura Howard), Mrs Thistletwat (Jude Cliffman and Mina Machin) and last but not least The Bad Idea Bears (Michelle Bruce and Martin Holtom) are all wonderfully entertaining.
The vocals match the characters and the accents are performed well.
There area few differences in this production from others that I'd seen, one being Gary Coleman being a puppet, whereas I'd always seen productions where Gary was played as a human and not a puppet, and I suppose this version fitted in with the rest of the characters. It didn't seem out of place with just Bryan and Christmas Eve now being the only pair of humans.
If you've seen other productions of "Q" and you're intending to see this one, I'll leave you to spot the differences as they're fun to pick out.
The soundtrack is filled to the brim with catchy tunes with clever lyrics, and while many of them are not politically correct, they will make you laugh.James Bowden was the Musical Director and his band of musicians sounded crisp and at a level which blended in well with the acoustics and didn't drown the vocals from the stage.
Directed by Christopher Collington and Produced by Daniel Collington between them they gave us a rollicking good show full of laughs. With the addition of the puppets as well as timing in the two TV screens, there was a lot to make sure went right, and it did, very smoothly.
The set is especially hired in, as are the puppets to make sure the "brand" is kept.
My only niggle of the evening is regarding one of the vital parts of this musical, and that is timing. Not with the actors or puppetry, but with the lighting. There's a section where the upstairs windows have the characters appear at the windows to sing, and these weren't hit by the lights, so we could hear the vocals, we just didn't see the characters at the window. For me that hitting the window with the spot needs to be timed better. Not a major thing by any stretch of the imagination and nothing that can't be tweaked. But I knew that nothing would spoil my enjoyment of "Q", and it didn't.
It's one of those musicals that once you've seen it, you'll want to see it again, just for the sheer fun and non politically correct comedy. Great respect for all the actors and puppet masters, and if your eyes stray from the puppet characters to the actors, just note the shadowing of the puppet in every aspect, physically and visually.
“Avenue Q” will be right up your street if you go and see it before it closes on Saturday 21 October 2017

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