The politically incorrect puppets are back in town and this time they’re causing havoc at Lichfield Garrick. Lichfield Operatic Society’s latest production is the brilliantly witty Avenue Q and it’s not an easy show to pull off. Alongside acting, singing and dancing skills, you also need to possess a confident principal cast who are able to execute the intricate puppetry required. From the buzz of the opening Avenue Q Theme it was abundantly clear that we were going to be in safe hands with this company.
The storyline is a simple one, but the beauty of this show lies in its wonderful one liners and catchy score. Robert Lopez (who co-created The Book of Mormon, as well as wrote songs for Disney’s Frozen and Coco) and Jeff Marx’s music and lyrics, coupled with Jeff Witty’s book makes for a laugh-out-loud watch. Talent filled the stage as so many characters were brought to glorious life by this energetic company.
The protagonist of the story is almost 23-year old graduate Princeton, played sincerely by Anil Patel. Patel brings a joyous warmth to the character and his vocals impress through the night. Comic buffoon Brian is played adeptly by Adam Lacey with some delightfully funny moments and his pairing with Kate Pinell’s Christmas Eve is sublime. Pinell impresses in this role and her rendition of The More You Ruv Someone was a real highlight of the night.
Elsewhere, the duo of Rod and Nicky delivers laughs thick and fast. Patrick Jervis and Pete Beck have clearly crafted their performances expertly well in order to generate believable bickering chemistry between these two ‘puppet’ characters. Fine support came from Aaron Morris as Gary Coleman, with standout performances from Ben Foulds as Trekkie Monster and Lucy Follows as Kate Monster. Foulds is reprising this role, having played it previously at the Old Joint Stock and his performance is nothing short of perfection. Meanwhile, Follows brings star quality to the role of Kate Monster. There’s A Fine, Fine Line is the gritty ballad of the piece, ending the first act and Follows delivers it with absolute conviction.
There were some strong cameos from Zoe Albutt and Dan Anketell as the Bad Idea Bears, as well as a rather sultry Lucy Surtees (Lucy the Slut) and a haughty Sarah Mathias (Mrs T).
Shout out also to Nicky and Trekkie’s ‘other arms’ Vickie Beck, Lucy Bishop, Sarah Clark and Hannah Clark. Alongside the rest of the puppeteers, they dexterously gave these characters authentic personalities. There were a couple of missed lines but this is a very small observation and nothing that impacted on what was a highly commendable production.
Having watched this show a number of times, one of the most pleasing things to see is that LOS did not shy away from trying something a little bit different. Although the show does not ordinarily include a large ensemble, this group certainly made it work. Not only did it work, it was a triumph. The additional voices lifted the larger numbers and the presence of more people allowed ‘Avenue Q’ to feel more naturalistic. Particular highlights included Everybody’s A Little Bit Racist and Schadenfreude. Choreographer Charlotte Middleton managed to blend the ensemble in flawlessly, with some superb choreography that really enhanced the pace of the show. Not only that, it was clear that both Middleton and director James Pugh worked incredibly closely with the principal ‘puppet’ actors, to ensure their two characters blended into one. Completing the production team was Musical Director David Easto. The musical score soared through the auditorium, as the orchestra glowed under his direction.
This production was far from amateur, groups are constantly ‘upping’ their game and LOS have really created a masterpiece in Avenue Q. Slick, professional and uproariously funny, grab a ticket if you can, because this is amateur theatre at its finest.
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