Sesame Street 'Rated R'
Theatre typically starts in the West End and transfers to Broadway. This summer sees a welcome reversal with the import of Avenue Q, the Tony award-winning musical commonly dubbed 'Sesame Street for Grown-ups'.
To start with, we are no longer on 123 Sesame Street, but have moved to Avenue Q a fictional street in an unspecified New York borough. The cast is made up of imaginary disillusioned twenty and thirty something New Yorkers - some people, others puppets manipulated by actors who double as puppeteers.
Each of the characters is acting out their individual 'quarter-life' crisis with the topics of failure, sex and life's general pettiness uniting the play. In ways similar to Rent, Avenue Q is pitched at the non traditional theatre audience, the over 13s and under 40s. It is accessible to the generation that learned off a television screen and can remember teachers like Cookie Monster and Big Bird. Except on Avenue Q they talk about commitment and one night stands, the grown up version of your ABCs and 123s.
The lead character, Princeton, opens the show with a song, "It Sucks To Be Me," lamenting the uselessness of his recently acquired B.A. Other humans include Brian, an unemployed aspiring comedic and his exaggeratedly Japanese therapist fiancée called Christmas Eve. The puppet characters are as varied with the most personable being Kate Monster, an aspiring teacher who falls for Princeton. There is also Rod, an investment banker and closet gay; and Lady T. Slut, a Mae West-like jezebel, amongst others.
The show is not for the easily offended and often veers on X rated puppetry. There are tongue in cheek references to most topics deemed offensive including: racism (song: "Everyone's a Little Bit Racist"), homosexuality, and obsession with porn (song: "Internet is for Porn"). Songs that Sesame could never do, but here are disgustingly irresistible.
The show is clever, if but in a sophomoric way, notwithstanding moments of aged genius. There is a scene when Kate Monster in a state of despair over her unrequited crush on Princeton seeks advice from therapist, Christmas Eve. In a heartbreaking alto, Christmas Eve sings, “The more you love someone / The more you wishing him dead / Sometime you look at him and only see fat and lazy / And wanting baseball bat for hitting him on his head.”
In her own way, Christmas Eve has accomplished what hours of analysis couldn’t: the disagreeable task of accepting another person, on or off Avenue Q, and accepting, too, the ordinariness that lies at the core of passion. It's no wonder she has a hard time finding patients. People don't pay therapists to hear the truth.
All in all, it's an ingenious combination of The Real World and Sesame Street, with a cast that is something both more and less than Friends. Like a trip to the East Village for a night out, but in London and with hilarity.
Seats range from £17.50-£47.50 (weekday); £20-£50 (weekend)
Booking until 30th Sept, 2006
£17.50 are for last row of Stalls and Upper Balcony. Request last row of Stalls, Row T and move forward to any middle section open seats (i.e. the £50 ones) as the curtain goes up. That is savings of £30 a ticket. And don't be shy, it is common practice. You will see others follow suit. But book early, the closer it gets to the end of the run the less likely you are to find empty seats. Just don't let the secret out.
Noel Coward Theatre, St Martin's Lane
0870 850 9175