Review: Avenue Q at The Marina Theatre, Lowestoft
PUBLISHED: 17:37 26 May 2016
As soon as the curtain lifted on the opening night at the Marina Theatre, we felt a part of everyday life on Avenue Q.
Little did we know that over the next hour and a half, we would meet a whole host of characters and connect with their desire to make sense of life’s burning issues on the downtown New York Street.
The principal cast of seven performers had such a connection with their puppet characters, that the audience were instantly fascinated with the trials and tribulations they would go on to face.
The show began with Richard Lowe, who trained at Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts, brilliantly introducing the spectacled Rod to the audience.
And as Richard Morse appeared on the stage as Brian, we were all enthralled with the spectacular set and endless enthusiasm already shown to us.
With an early song featuring the line “it sucks to be me” which was extremely catchy, other characters were introduced – including the hilariously funny Christmas Eve played by Arina II.
The puppet named Princeton was the focal point of the show – a fresh faced college graduate who had just moved to the neighbourhood.
The audience were captivated by his attempts to find his purpose in life.
Also voiced by Richard Lowe, the dark haired character was an instant hit with the audience as the high calibre songs continued.
Trekkie Monster and Nicky were both expertly portrayed by Stephen Arden – who even fitted in the time to voice one of the two Bad Idea Bears – who popped up at various intervals.
Stephen is a graduate of the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama.
He was then joined on stage by Sarah Harlington – who voiced Kate Monster and Lucy the Slut.
What was particularly noticeable was the dynamic nature of the performers – who a lot of the time voiced puppets that they were not necessarily holding.
As the journey through the neighbourhood continued, a number of rather provocative and contentious issues were conveyed in the storyline.
The ideas of homosexuality, racism and pornography were discussed – with the lighting and sound team deserving real credit for adding to the atmosphere of the production.
The audience were in fits of laughter as they followed the early stages of the relationship between Princeton and Kate Monster – although many had to cover their eyes at a sex scene which saw the puppets rather let themselves go – with Princeton definitely continuing to follow his path to self discovery!
Jessica Parker, who played Mrs T and the second Bad Idea Bear, along with Etisyai Philip in the role of Gary Coleman, were a joy to watch – as the lively and off the wall characters continued to entertain.
There was even time for a wedding scene as the story continued, with Christmas Eve and Brian tying the knot – much to the excitement of the other characters.
The show, created by Jeff Marx and Robert Lopez – was also brilliantly supported by the ensemble cast of Rhiane Drummond, Gracie Lai, Cameron Sharp and Josh Tevendale, who, along with the band, added to the drama and excitement of the production.
After the brief interlude, it was straight back to action and a rather awkward encounter for Princeton and a rather busty puppet named Lucy.
Following further catchy songs, a number of unfortunate incidents followed as Rod throws Nicky out of his house for some unwelcomed remarks.
Lucy then encounters a terrible incident of her own, involving a penny falling from a mighty height.
Just before the big finale, some of the puppets and performers came into the crowd to collect any spare change from audience members. Sitting on the end of a row, I even got to meet Princeton face-to-face.
Before I arrived at the theatre, I knew I was a big fan of shows such as The Muppets and Sesame Street – but the people operating those puppets could not be seen.
It was an issue addressed by director and chorographer Cressida Carré.
“In this show the actors operating the puppets are completely visible to the audience and not all concealed,” she said.
“So the challenge here is to get the audience to focus on the puppet and go on a journey with each and every character, caring about what happens to them, even though they are aware that the movement and voices are down to the actors in control of the puppets.”
And as all of the performers gathered on stage at the end, the audience at the Marina knew they had seen a memorable show that will live long in the memory.
■ There are still five performances of the show at the theatre. Tonight (Thursday) at 7.30pm, tomorrow at 5.00pm and 8.30pm and at 4pm and 8pm on Saturday.
■ To book, call the box office on 01502 533200.
Review by Joe Randlesome.