Review: Avenue Q (Lower Ossington Theatre)

Avenue Q

Avenue Q is the adult’s Sesame Street, back at Toronto’s Lower Ossington Theatre

Watching Avenue Q at the Lower Ossington Theatre was like eating a large bowl of your favourite comfort food. In my case, it was like eating my childhood favourite, spaghetti and meatballs! It hits you in all the right places and makes you yearn for more. If there was ever a show that could physically touch you and tickle you until you couldn’t stop smiling, than Avenue Q would be that show.

I generally love musicals but I was a bit wary about watching puppets and puppeteers sing and dance for a whole evening. Having not heard the music before, I admittedly was a little curious to see what all the hype was about. Why were people raving about seeing puppets?

Let’s first start off by saying that this is a show intended for grown-ups. Even though the promotional posters make it seem like you are about to watch an episode of Glee (but with puppets), this couldn’t be further be from the truth. Avenue Q is a kinky delicious musical that touches on a lot of hard-to-talk-about social themes that may not always sit well with a younger audience.

Watching this show made me sometimes feel like I was a character from the 80s movie, Back to the Future. Before the show even began, I felt like I was a child again as I was sitting and humming to tunes from The Muppets and Sesame Street. It made me feel all giddy and happy like I just overloaded on pink candy floss.

Once we were introduced to the colourful characters, what stood out were the puppeteers’ abilities to address tough issues (such as sexuality, homelessness, economic barriers) in a light and fun way.

All the performers were great but I did particularly fall in with the two main puppeteers/actors, Graham Scott Fleming (who played Princeton/Rod) and Jacqueline Martin (who played Kate/Lucy). I was so taken by their performances that I caught myself looking at them a lot of the times and not so much at the puppets they were holding.

The musical addresses the desire to live a life of passion and find ones purpose in life, rather than settling for the crummy job that leaves you unfulfilled. This is something I’m sure we can all relate to. Especially if you’ve just graduated from college with the pre-conceived notion that maybe now all your dreams could come true and you could maybe save the world.

The character, Princeton, takes us through his journey as he discovers more about himself and even finds himself in the lap of a female puppet …or two!

Musical theatre is at its best when it can highlight the social issues that people don’t quite openly talk about. Such as internet porn or racism. Avenue Q touched on a lot of themes, which is commendable, but sometimes I found it to be too much all at once. Possibly simplifying it and cutting it down to two or three social themes would have addressed the issues better.

What I loved about the show was the creative audience interaction and the quick references to Canada and Rob Ford. If there was something I didn’t particularly like, it was the character Christmas Eve’s Japanese accent as it wasn’t always consistent and many times I was hoping she could just speak or sing in her natural voice, as that itself was beautiful.

This musical reminded of the song from the Sound of Music, a spoon full of sugar makes the medicine go down, because of its ability to address tough topics in a musical and fun way. But on that note, because it was so much fun, it was also challenging to emotionally connect with any of the characters.

Overall, Avenue Q is like getting a double shot of inexpensive therapy that will keep you happy and high throughout. A must see!

Photo of Trekkie Monster and Adam Norrad by Seanna Kennedy