Remarkably unprepared I walked into the Beaumaris Theatre having not so much as googled the synopsis of “Avenue Q”. Billed as a twisted version of Sesame Street for adults, the show takes place in a street of the same name in which puppets, monsters and humans live together in harmony, more or less. Our central character Princeton, played by the incredible Josh Pratt, arrives on the street having recently completed his BA in English and at a point of cross-roads in his life unsure of where his life will take him. “Avenue Q” explores the life of your typical 20-something graduate entering the real world, a first look at real adulthood, navigating love, money and finding a purpose in life. The musical teaches us that sometimes life sucks, through plenty of painfully relatable misfortunes presented as humorous musical acts, puppetry and a hilarious script.
Beaumaris theatre is not a large venue, yet as I took my seat I noticed that the audience was buzzing with the same electric energy one would expect from a professional show. It took less than five minutes into this remarkably creative and impressively polished performance to figure out why. While the set at Beaumaris was understandably simple compared to Broadway productions, I was instantly charmed by the nostalgic design and sharp attention to detail. The set included three, two-story buildings that opened up to reveal a simple room which transformed to become a room from any of the apartments in the street.
What truly made the show was the talent of the entire cast. With many actors playing a number of characters, the versatility of the group was especially evident. From the opening number I was totally captivated by each and every actor – who excelled both vocally and in asserting their characters. I was particularly impressed by the seamless integration of the puppets, used masterfully throughout the performance. To be honest, I have no idea how the cast managed to convey so much expression and emotion through something that can only move its mouth. The cast had me in tears laughing for the majority of the night from songs about porn to equally hilarious songs which reminded me of the crushing reality that my bachelor of arts will get me nowhere in life.
Specifically, one of the highlights for me was the emotional end of Act I, “There’s a Fine, Fine Line” performed by the incredible Amanda Rotberg in her portrayal of Kate Monster. Perhaps I’m just a sucker for an emotional ballad, or maybe I just identified a little bit too much with Kate’s journey, but Rotberg’s display of raw emotion utterly moved me. Similarly impressive was Joel Norman-Hade who gave us the wonderful Nicky and perfectly jarring Trekkie Monster. While not the main character, it was Norman-Hade’s constant enthusiasm and pitch perfect comic ability that ensured I was both entertained and hilariously disturbed by the performance at every turn.
Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect going into the show, but I can definitely say that I am impressed. It is clear that this is not an easy production to stage, however perhaps the greatest compliment I can pay Director Leah Osburn was that as an individual that was new to the amateur theatre scene, it proved incredibly difficult to split the performance apart from a professional standard. I definitely recommend that anyone looking for an entertaining night out buy tickets before they sell out.
“Avenue Q” closes at Beaumaris Theatre on the 3rd of September. To book tickets and learn more about future productions you can visit their website here.