When I first heard that BLOG would be doing the hit musical Avenue Q, I have to admit I was nervous. While the version seen on the Broadway and West End stages has been universally praised, it is also a truth universally acknowledged that it is an extremely difficult show for an amateur group to pull off. The script is quick, and scalpel-sharp; the songs catchy and vibrant.
The problem lies in the fact that at least 70% of the cast – including the two main characters – is made up of hand puppets. In the hands of professionals (pun intended, sorry), the puppets come alive, and you barely notice the black clothed – but perfectly visible – actors manipulating them. In an amateur production, there is no guarantee that this will be the case – and in Avenue Q, that threatens the entire premise of the show.
However, my fears were entirely unfounded – the actors playing the parts of the puppet characters were absolutely excellent, and a testament to the obvious dedication of the cast and crew. Andrew English was very good as the idealistic college graduate Princeton, whose move to Avenue Q and entrance to the ‘real world’ is the starting premise of the show, although occasionally focus was less on the puppet character than on English himself. Princeton’s romantic interest, Aimi Kuhlke’s Kate Monster, has some of the more touching moment of the production and played them with conviction.
Notable for his puppeteering skills and excellent comic timing was the neurotic (and deeply closeted) Rod played with unflagging enthusiasm by Sam Cochrane – whose accent was scarily spot on. Nick Feieraband’s Trekkie Monster was also fantastic – his infamous anthem ‘The Internet is for Porn’ was one of the highlights of the show.
Technically, BLOG’s production was also stunning, transforming the Mission Theatre’s auditorium into a New York street – the set is beautiful (although a touch shaky at times), and the lighting is slick. All in all, this is one of the best productions I’ve seen for some time – and the audience was suitably appreciative. It’s been a while since I saw a show in which the cast easily could (and deserved to ) have taken a second curtain call – so make sure to pop along and see what all the fuss is about. You’ll not regret it – and you certainly won’t be able to forget it!