REBECCA HASLAM

A smashing success To a sold out audience, a mix of theatre lovers both young and old, along with an array of TV famous faces (hello Roxanne Pallett!), the opening night of this Manchester run proved to be a smashing success from the get-go. Described by the press as “a breakthrough musical” upon its opening in New York back in 2002, and often summed up as “Sesame Street for grown-ups”, for over two hours, the ensemble on stage, led by an assortment of puppets or Monsters, as they are called here, danced, sang, laughed and cried their way through a story of self-discovery and exploration, taking each and every audience member along with them for the ride. The cast is led by Tom Steedon, as Princeton (pun likely intended), a college graduate living in a run down area of New York, facing the problems so many of the younger generations have been and will continue to be able to identify with, no matter where in the modern world they may be. The worries of unemployment, bills, rent and the struggles of personal life and relationships – all issues that raise their head so often in daily life – are laid out on stage for everyone to see, to understand and to share in. Even with a setting such as New York, the city that never sleeps, this story could be unfolding in London, Paris, or Dublin – it is unconfined, and therefore has, as it has long since proved, a mass appeal. Despite its musical nature, Avenue Q is not for children. Subject topics range from racism to sexuality while the show even takes a hugely amusing pop at religion via Scientology. Much of the shows’ humour comes from Stephen Arden as Trekkie Monster who is brazenly porn obsessed and almost every appearance he makes on stage, no matter how brief, results in raucous laughter echoing around the theatre while ‘The Internet Is For Porn’ has scores of people wiping the tears from their eyes as they laugh so hard their seats and shoulders shake. Having now been playing to audiences across the world for over a decade, it may surprise some that the show is still able to present itself as fresh as it does – even for attendees who have seen it before – and such is hugely helped by the songs. Many are uplifting and inspiring with ‘There’s A Fine, Fine Line’ reminding us all that we’ve “gotta go after the things we want”, but it is closing number ‘For Now’ that hits home the hardest. Despite many comical moments; gone is the George Bush reference of yester-year, having been replaced with a reference to twerking teen sensation Miley Cyrus, ultimately the song is a call to everyone, urging them to accept what cannot be avoided but to always remember that “life may be scary but it’s only temporary” so to treasure and make the most of it. The show may only be in Manchester for a week before continuing its tour of the UK and Ireland, but with audiences so entertained as they were tonight, ‘for now’ there is little doubt that Avenue Q won’t be evicted from hearts and minds, nor theatre stages, anytime soon. - See more at: http://t-hud.co.uk/avenue-on-on-avenue-q/#sthash.9qsnuG7j.dpuf