Avenue Q is a far cry from The Muppets
While this isn't a very family friendly show it will have you in stitches...
When it comes to puppet shows, you’d think Blackpool had seen it all.
Sooty was discovered in the resort and Punch and Judy are among the nation’s best loved seaside residents.
But the capers of some of Avenue Q’s residents, who will take up residence at the Opera House next month, would put wicked Mr Punch and the crocodile to shame.
Don’t be fooled by their cute and cuddly images, while they may look like members of the Muppets’ family, some of Avenue Q’s characters mean this musical isn’t quite the family-friendly show it might appear at first glance.
The Bad Idea Bears think nothing of a mid-week binge drinking session, and Trekkie Monster would be well advised to clear his internet browsing history to save everyone’s blushes... Never mind songs such as The Internet Is For Porn and Everyone’s A Little Bit Racist.
That said, they are a friendly enough bunch with warm - and fuzzy - hearts, welcoming New York newcomer, recent graduate, and super-nice guy Princeton when he moves in, hoping to find his purpose in life and make his fortune, but being left asking What Do You Do With A BA In English? as he struggles to find a job.
“Like most people, I don’t know what to do after graduating,” Princeton explained to me, when I caught up with him on the tour’s Manchester stop. “I’ve got no skills, just the knowledge.
“Avenue Q was the only place I could afford when I came to New York.
“The people are friendly, and there’s a rich culture there.
“I’m trying to find my purpose, I’m waiting for that eureka moment in my life.”
The show’s run at the Winter Gardens’ theatre, from Monday to Saturday, June 6 to 11, comes almost two years after its first visit to Blackpool, when it played the Grand Theatre, with Fylde performer Lucy Mae Sumner leading the cast.
In case you missed it that time around, the musical follows Princeton’s arrival in town, and his encounters with girl - or should that be monster - next door Kate, Rod the Republican, internet sexpert Trekkie and saucepot singer Lucy - among others, who all help Princeton finally discover his purpose.
The Tony Award-winning show is described as ‘part flesh, part felt’, and Richard Lowe is the actor charged with being the ‘flesh’ to Princeton’s ‘felt’.
Life as a musical theatre performer is hard enough, the years of training to become a ‘triple threat’; excelling in all three disciplines of acting, singing and dancing.
Then add in to the mix puppetry, and you know the cast of Avenue Q are some seriously talented people - coached in the essential skills to bring their characters to life, fading into the background to hide in plain sight.
For contrary to their near relatives the Muppets or the Sesame Street gang, where the puppet operators are tucked away out of view, in Avenue Q there’s no hiding place, as Richard explains.
“I hadn’t had any previous experience in puppetry before this,” he said. “We had four weeks of training and it was a real challenge, but a good one and I’ve got a new-found love for the art form.
“I’d seen puppetry, and I’d seen Avenue Q before being cast in it, but you don’t realise the difficulty of it; it’s rubbing your tummy and patting your head times a thousand.
“But that’s the aim. Really, you want people to look at the puppets and when that happens you know you’ve got it right.
“There’s four weeks of rehearsals and training, but it then takes months to crack it.”
As the tour’s been running for some time now and comes to an end a week after it’s Blackpool stop off, audiences can be assured the cast have done just that.
n Avenue Q, Opera House, Blackpool, Monday to Saturday, June 6 to 11. Visit www.wintergardensblackpool.co.uk for tickets.