Review: Avenue Q
Madeleine Dale | On 23, Oct 2015
Avenue Q returns to the Arts Theatre, with all its post-graduation ennui, dubious uses of the internet and seriously inappropriate puppets.
With a stylish, professional set, Broadway-quality puppets and a small but confident orchestra, Avenue Q is perhaps the Arts Theatreâ€™s sleekest production. All the funds saved by already owning said set and puppets have this year been funnelled into (you guessed it) more set and puppets! The inclusion of more auxiliary characters and singing objects, as well as a truly terrifying giant Kate Monster brings an already first-class production up another notch from when it last appeared in 2014.
Since then, there has been almost a full cast change, but the new guard are holding down the fort well. Lara Boyle nails the combination of repressed fury and optimistic sweetness that drives Kate Monster, with enough raw emotion for both puppet and actor. Her rare outbursts of rage, when they come, are perfectly timed and hilarious to watch. William Toft, meanwhile, makes his main house debut as a wonderful Princeton, admirably following up last yearâ€™s excellent Beau Rush. Special mention must go to Trent Richards, however, a man whose vocal acting is unsurpassed as he glides seamlessly between the roles of Nicky and Trekkie Monster. His Nicky is uncomfortably close to a perfect Sesame Street imitation (as all the best Nickys are) and his Trekkie is disgustingly, delightfully guttural.
Avenue Q famously pushes the envelope of polite theatre, and it has made its name from irreverence and offence. For the most part, this approach manifests in reasonably harmless, off-colour jokes. The portrayal of Christmas Eve, however, is harder to justify. Itâ€™s difficult to separate production from script in this regard, as most of the humour is built into the songs, but itâ€™s unfortunate that a Japanese accent remains one of the showâ€™s central jokes, in a way that cannot be explained as anything other than straight mockery.
In taking the play on, there is not a tremendous amount a theatre can do about the situation (though a great deal of sensitivity in casting is required). None the less, the laughter that rings through the Arts Theatre every time Christmas Eve mispronounces a word leaves a sour taste in the mouth, especially knowing that this ridicule will also follow people who canâ€™t take the accent off after bows. Katherine Alpert is perhaps the strongest voice in the show, and itâ€™s a pity her stunning vocals are marred by this faint sense of unease.
Brisbane Arts Theatre, however, cannot be held responsible for the social flaws in a twelve year old play, and indeed they must be commended for bringing a tricky Broadway production to life with such verve and professionalism. As the last main house production for the 2015, Avenue Q rounds out an absolutely stellar year for the theatre, and it is the last chance to enjoy all the fun, talent and inspiration that has made this season shine.
What Avenue Q
Where Brisbane Arts Theatre
When 17th Oct â€“ 19th Dec, 2015
How Much $30 â€“ $39
For more information or tickets, head to the Arts Theatre website here.
Image credit: Brisbane Arts Theatre Official