JOYCE MCMILLAN on AVENUE Q at the King’s Theatre, Edinburgh, for The Scotsman 14.6.14.
4 stars ****
ARE YOU FEELING down in the dumps – underpaid, overworked, overdrawn? Are you haunted by the suspicion that 21st century capitalism doesn’t work for you, without having the slightest idea what to do about it?
Then you should cut along, without delay, to the King’s Theatre – or, next week, to Eden Court in Inverness – where the ambitious young UK touring company Sell A Door are co-producing a delightful new touring version of Robert Lopez and Jeff Marks’s 2002 musical Avenue Q, set in a grungy street in outer New York where the young and underemployed rent rooms.
Blessed with hugely witty lyrics, Avenue Q certainly takes the American musical to places it has never been before. Half of the characters are played by Muppet-style puppets, all of them are willing and able to have sex and to sing graphic songs about it, and they are all ruthlessly frank about their economic and personal weaknesses, belting out songs like What Can You Do With A BA in English?, and the suspiciously popular Everyone’s A Little Bit Racist, with an energy perfectly captured in Cressida Carre’s exuberant new production.
What’s strange about Avenue Q, though, is that for all its adventurous tone, in the end it’s just another American feelgood musical, that makes even the experience of homelessness into a cosy community affair. The wit is glorious, the songs are great; but the final cheesy acceptance of the world as it is is hard to take, from a team with such a sharp insight into what’s gone wrong in our society, and what we should be striving to put right.