December 11, 2007

What's Driving Avenue Q?

Last night Marlene and I "took in a bit of theatre" and went to see Avenue Q on London's West End. For years I've been hearing about how this show is funny, racy and radical. Of course the offer of half price tickets further convinced me that it was the show for us!

Little did we know that we had signed up to see a musical - Marlene thought it was going to be a drama and I don't know what I was expecting. When we arrived the theatre lobby was filled with groups of nervous 12-year-olds. That was the second sign that this would be something other than what we'd expected.

The humor was about at the level of a 16-year-old but the cultural references were more targeted towards the 24-34ers and then the Sesame Street/Muppet component was definitely nostalgic for the 35-45ers. Unfortunately it missed hitting all groups. Plus, it was very American and the crowd was definitely British.

Marlene assessed that the whole thing could be improved by chopping it down to a 20 minute short play. I would go so far as to say it was shallow, racist, negative and immature (not in a ha ha kind of way) and needed some serious direction.

The cool bit was the use of puppets and the collaborative approach the actors used to expertly bring them to life. There was also a promising scene about philanthropy which unfortunately ended in a joke that undermined all the good associations. You just had to wonder if the actors were thinking, "we're paying our dues with this show."