AVENUE Q, the smash-hit musical whose ‘stars’ are puppets, saw its world premiere sixteen years ago in NYC and continues to entertain audiences the world over to this day!

Originally conceived by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx, who wrote the music and lyrics, the show’s quirky concept involves puppets with human characteristics, as well as the skilled actors and singers who operate them. The performers are fully visible to the audience though clad in black to avoid upstaging the puppets.

The action takes place in Avenue Q, a street in a downmarket borough of New York City. Since the letter ‘Q’ is pretty much at the end of the alphabet it means that Avenue Q is even more downbeat than Avenue B or C, say. First off we are introduced to Princeton, a recent college graduate looking for an affordable apartment as well as his purpose in life… cue for the show’s first song, ‘What Do You Do With a BA in English?’ Gradually, the various residents of Avenue Q appear, like Kate Monster, an assistant Kindergarten teacher with aspirations to open her own school for monsters one day. Other characters include Christmas Eve, a Japanese-American lady and a shrink with hardly any clients, Brian - an unemployed and unsuccessful comedian engaged to Christmas Eve, plus roommates Nicky and Rod (a closet-homosexual and Republican banker). Frequently, main plot and sub-plots satirize the fears of entering adulthood. To emphasize this, we are introduced to yet another (albeit non-puppet) character, namely former child star Gary Coleman (who passed away in 2010), now reduced to the building’s superintendent who, matter of factly, remarks that “his purpose in life is long over” (‘It sucks to be ME’). The dialogue is hilarious and the songs are spiked with an ironic, adult sense of humour that deals with everyday issues like love, work and money (or the lack of it, rather). It also deals with more ‘taboo’ issues like racism (‘Everyone’s A Little Bit Racist’), sexuality (‘If You Were Gay’) and pornography (‘The Internet Is For Porn’) – the latter number particularly championed by internet porn addict Trekkie Monster.

With personal ambitions and sexual orientations (‘My Girlfriend, who lives in Canada’) in turmoil, the only thing that seems to go smooth is the budding romance between Princeton and Kate Monster… which almost comes to a premature end during their first official rendezvous in the Around The Clock Café where femme fatale chanteuse Lucy the Slut hits on Princeton… ending in a cat fight (or puppet fight?) between Lucy and a jealous Kate. Later that night Princeton reassures Kate Monster that his heart beats for her and the two have wild and relentless sex (if you ever wanted to see two puppets having sex on stage, this is your chance!) culminating in the song ‘You Can Be as Loud as the Hell You Want When You’re Makin’ Love). The steamy lovemaking has unfortunate consequences for Kate however, as she oversleeps the following morning… and promptly misses her teaching assignment, which would have required her to cover for her unkind boss Mrs. Thistletwat. The ensuing argument sees Kate Monster quitting before Thistletwat can fire her. Kate might be out of a job but at least now she’s free to open her School for Monsters. Everything the characters plan on doing, or hesitate on doing is emphasized by the Bad Idea Bears - two fluffy teddy bears.

If you want to find out how it all ends for the tenants of Avenue Q and whether they will find their true purpose in life then go see this riotous musical with as many friends as possible. You never know, you too might find your true purpose in life (‘There is Life outside Your Apartment’)!

The puppets were lovingly created by Paul Jomain and skilfully operated by: Lawrence Smith (Princeton/Rod), Cecily Redman (Kate Monster/Lucy Slut), Tom Steedon (Nicky, Trekkie Monster/Bad Idea Bear), Megan Armstrong (Mrs. Thistletwat/Bad Idea Bear/second arm), Saori Oda (Christmas Eve), Oliver Stanley (Brian), Nicholas McLean (Gary Coleman) while Jasmine Beel, Chloe Gentles, Ellis Dackombe and Robbie Noonan rounded up the ensemble.

AVENUE Q runs until Sat 1st June at the King’s Theatre (www.capitaltheatres.com)