Venue: Enmore Theatre (Newtown NSW), from Jul 2 – 18, 2015
Music and lyrics: Robert Lopez, Jeff Marx
Book: Jeff Whitty
Director: Jo Turner
Cast: Shauntelle Benjamin, Julia Dray, Kimberley Hodgson, Madeleine Jones, Owen Little, Matthew Predny, Nicholas Richard, Justin Smith, Riley Sutton, Rowena Vilar
On Avenue Q, everyone is struggling with the challenges of life, and all have quirks that lead them to feeling marginalised by society at some point, but they are a community that provides support to each other, no matter their differences. They embrace the diversity of their street, and never fail to put judgements aside, for a song and a dance, and more than a few laughs. It has been 12 years since the show’s original première off-Broadway, and the bona fide hit is now a well-oiled machine, tuned to perfection. The script is clever and engaging, with punchlines that never fail, and the songs are all witty and extraordinarily catchy.
Jo Turner’s direction for this Sydney run, is lively, mischievous, and surprisingly moving. He is conscious of the brand’s gently subversive nature, and speaks politically at appropriate moments, but it is his emphasis on the show’s joyful comedy and its sentimental poignancies that cuts through strongest. Every moment seems meaningful, and while not always deep, Turner consistently draws from us powerful emotional responses, both light and dark. The stage is kept active and busy, so that our senses are keenly enthralled, but our attention is focused on a tightly woven plot, relayed with crystal clarity, as is its range of characters.
A strong Australian cast is at the production’s helm, with Matthew Predny’s work as vocalist, puppeteer and actor leaving the greatest impression for his two roles, Princeton and Rod. Charming, effervescent and impossibly sweet, we devour everything that he offers up, and are amazed by all that he is capable of. Also compelling is Madeleine Jones as Kate Monster, whose big dreams remind us of forgotten idealism and who touches us with her tender youth and innocence. Jones’ portrayal is passionate, with thrilling vocals that gain control of our emotions with ease. It is a very warm presence that the team brings to the stage, making us all feel like everything’s A-OK, and we want to know how to get to Avenue Q… how to get to Avenue Q.