Review: Avenue Q (Enmore Theatre)

avenueqVenue: 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

Theatre review
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.

5 Questions with Nath Valvo

rsz_boy_next_door_croppedWhat is your favourite swear word?
Tony Abbott.

What are you wearing?
Gym shorts and a singlet. I put these on at 10 AM to go to the Gym. It’s now 3.40 PM and I still haven’t been. It’s raining outside. I could slip. And die. Best I stay in. (Plus when my housemates get home it looks like I’ve been to the gym which is just as important as going)

What is love?
Hanson. Goosebumps Books. My round-the-twist VHS tapes. Tazos. Elderly people swearing.
Coffee. When your vegan friend cancels your dinner date.

What was the last show you saw, and how many stars do you give it?
The last show I saw was about 15 minutes ago and it was Huey’s Cooking Adventures. That man’s fingers look like swollen penises. I’m a tad shaken up. 1 star.

Is your new show going to be any good?
You sound like my disapproving dad at christmas lunch! (This is the same dad who when he comes to my shows counts the number of seats sold times the ticket prices and texts me the box office numbers on his way home) ANYWAY! I love my new show! I talk about the 90’s and Tinder and underwear parties and sex and first dates and vegans and horror stories from flatmate finder. It’s super fun!

Nath Valvo’s show Boy Next Door is part of Sydney Comedy Festival 2014.
Show dates: 14 – 17 May, 2014
Show venue: The Enmore Theatre

Theatresports Cranston Cup Grand Final 2013 (Impro Australia)

rsz_113-12-01cranston_cup1052_winners_hans_and_ottoVenue: Enmore Theatre (Enmore NSW), Nov 30, 2013
MC: Jim Fishwick
Director / Referee: Marko Mustac
Judges: Michael Gregory, John Knowles, Susie Youssef, Ewan Campbell, Lyn Pierse
Participating teams: Yay! It’s Pat Magee and Friends, Middle Rage, Bridie of Frankensteen, Hans and Otto, The Browntown Three, Kavalier
Image by Stephen Reinhardt

Theatre review
The annual Cranston Cup sees teams compete through several rounds to reach the grand final, a night that celebrates the best of improvisation and unscripted comedy. Theatresports has thrived for nearly thirty years, and judging from the turn out and response at the Enmore Theatre, it is a part of Sydney culture that has a particularly loyal and colourful following. In fact, the crowd is an important element to the night’s proceedings, and they are a group who are up for a big laugh and know how to get it.

Early rounds see two teams, The Browntown Three and Kavalier, battle it out for the Fresh Cranston Cup, which rewards the best of young and emerging improvisers. All players presented no hint of green, and performed as well as their more seasoned counterparts. As a result, both groups tied for the fresh cup, although an all girl three-way affair depicted by Kavalier remains particularly memorable.

For the main event, a pair of “German gargoyles” Hans and Otto took out not just the Cranston Cup of 2013, but an additional Clem’s Chicken Award was also awarded to one of the duo Edan Lacey for most consistent performance throughout the various stages of competition. Although not always the clear winner, they demonstrated many moments of genius and were a definite crowd-pleaser. Bridie of Frankensteen were first runner-up in spite of a particularly powerful performance in their final challenge, showcasing a vicious tuck shop conflict. Third place went to Yay! It’s Pat Magee and Friends, who are made up of four members of varying abilities, and Middle Rage came in fourth even though their onstage bravado was most impressive.

It is unclear what the winners receive in prizes on top of the flamboyant trophy and prestige, but all performers were certainly fighting hard to put forward their very best. Each segment might be short and sweet, but the participants work hard at delivering incessant waves of laughter, and this tremendous collection of comedic talents undoubtedly found our funny bones and tickled us pink on their night of nights.