REVIEW: Avenue Q, Sunderland Empire, until July 16

Some of the cast of Avenue Q at the Sunderland Empire Theatre, l-r Jessica Parker, Jacquline Tate and Emily-Jane Morris.
Some of the cast of Avenue Q at the Sunderland Empire Theatre, l-r Jessica Parker, Jacquline Tate and Emily-Jane Morris.
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Is Avenue Q up your street?

If you like your musicals irreverent, then the answer is most probably yes.

This show is quite unlike most saccharine, jazz-hands productions that populate the touring circuit.

There’s the puppets for a start. Half of the cast are fluffy floating animals who look adorable - but swear like a trooper.

Then there’s the subject matter: racism, homosexuality, sex, porn - no stone is left unturned in the un-PC world of Avenue Q.

But then that’s what gives the show its cheeky charm. Its comic take on controversial topics - in which the puppets verbalise what most humans are thinking - is actually more true-to-life than musicals that merely skirt around the edges.

I last saw this show during its run in the West End, but the new tour still retains the show’s shock value. Even more so for those at the Empire who hadn’t seen it before.

There was an audible gasp of giggles when the first swear word spurted out of the felt potty mouth of Kate Monster - manipulated to perfection by Lucie-Mae Sumner. From then on, the show is liberally peppered with profanities, it’s Sesame Street for adults, but it’s more bawdy than bad taste.

The puppets are strangely believable, testament to the skilled puppeteers who bring them to life.

At the helm is Tom Steedon as Princeton who moves to the titular street to chase his dreams and ends up finding binge-drinking and fornication with a furry monster.

His journey of discovery is accompanied by a sound-track of unabashed tracks, The Internet Is For Porn and Everyone’s A Little Bit Racist to name but a few.

There’s even a graphic sex scene with him and love interest Kate Monster which has Olympic levels of carnal capers.

Anything goes on Avenue Q.