Review: Streetlight Theatre Arts, Avenue Q

avenue qThe email from Streetlight Theatre Arts simply asked if I would come along and review their debut production of Avenue Q.

The two things seemed a little incongruous about that message – debut and Avenue Q .  Surely not, I thought, why would any newly created group tackle such a challenging show?

The answer is because it was the dream of 17-year-old director Matt Powell and if he wants it to happen he makes it happen.

Obviously I couldn’t resist going along to see the result and so last night I was at the Robert Ludlam Theatre in Derby to see the action.

I could wax lyrical for pages about the show, but for starters I am simply going to say that it was a triumph for all involved and that I sat opened-mouthed pretty much throughout amazed at the talent in front of me.

I’ve never seen the Tony Award winning musical,  by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx, which was a huge success on Broadway and the West End, so I have nothing to compare it with, but this was a stunning production and the team must have worked extremely hard to put it together.

The cast is made up of a Muppet-style mixture of puppets and humans who live in a crummy street in an outer borough of New York.

The characters include a closeted gay banker, Rod played by Martin Counter; a Miss Piggy-like sex-goddess called Lucy the Slut, Emma Brookes; a homely marriage-hungry kindergarten teacher Kate Monster, Kat Fenton and the hero –Princeton, a graduate looking for a purpose in life, played by Andrew Buxton.

The musical is tough to pull off because the actors have to perform with the puppets on their arms and belt out the songs and dialogue as if they are the ones being watched.

Just three characters are human only: Brian a wannabe comedian played by Ollie Hand, his Japanese girlfriend Christmas Eve, Stacey Hyndman and the tenancy supervisor Gary Coleman, Jay Singh.

Stacey Hyndman, who has been performing in musicals for at least a decade, ruled the roost on stage as a rousing Christmas Eve and Kat Fenton’s Kate Monster had us all empathising with her outsider insecurities.

Damon Hatton who played the gay banker’s flatmate Nicky gave a standout performance, which delighted the audience and his duet If You Were Gay with the equally talented Martin Counter was a highlight of the evening.

How Joe Millward, who played the notorious Trekkie Monster, managed to hit such low notes I do not know, but his part in The Internet is for Porn number will never be forgotten.

Andrew Buxton did justice to the leading character of Princeton and was barely off the stage – he even had to perform puppet rumpy-pumpy which he did with some gusto.

This new theatre group is the brainchild of Matt Powell, who although still studying for his A-levels aspires to being a professional actor and director.

When he heard that Avenue Q was available for amateur groups he couldn’t resist the challenge and within a couple of days of making up his mind to do it he had the licence in his hands.

If this show is anything to go by then Derby certainly has a new kid on the block who is going to be giving the other groups a run for their money when it comes to the Eagle Awards.

The rest of the cast were: David Orange, Bad Idea Bear, Heidi Lewin, Bad Idea Bear and George Wright as Mrs T, Ricky and general support.

The band was: Dave Adey (musical director), George Francis, James Barnett, Jeff Widdowson, Nick Anderson and Pierre Vyncke.

The production team not already mentioned were, Steve Cole, stage manager; Chris Munn, lighting; Kevin Greene, sound; George Groom, DSM; Eleanor Mallinson, prompt; Paul Jomain, puppet design; Robert Lopez, animation design, Scott Mill and Adam Woodyet, stage crew.

The show is on for the last time this evening March 1 at 7.30pm.

For more information about the group go to http://www.streettheatrearts.wordpress.com