The sun is shining, it's a lovely day, the perfect morning for a kid to play - but you've got lots of bills to pay. This opening line tells us all we need to know about those living on Avenue Q and boy, can we relate. Starting all the way in Avenue A, our protagonist Princeton finds his funds limiting him to living in a place half way down the alphabet. Here, the Q stands for Quick. For quick-witted. For wow doesn't the time pass quick? For - QUICK! Take me back to childhood! Luckily for us, we get to go back for a second with this 'Sesame Street' style musical. However, make no mistake, this is not something to take your kids to (unless you're hoping to give them a boisterously sung sex-ed lesson). A pleasant pairing of puppets and puerile humour, this production of Avenue Q at the Enmore Theatre may transport us back to our childhood days for a moment, but in the end we are brought back to the present as these puppet pals deal with very real-life adult problems.
Telling the story of Princeton's move to this proverbial struggle street, he is searching for his Purpose in life (yes, that's with a capital P) and arrives bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Once there, he realises it isn't quite so easy and meets a lot of the other residents who have their own problems to deal with (be it destitution, closeted homosexuality or just general grouchiness). However, upon meeting one special girl-next-door, the kindergarten teacher Kate Monster, our hero begins to fall in love. With many an obstacle to overcome, we see these friends sticking together through thick and thin - telling it like it is in the most politically incorrect way.
The cast capture us from the very first second with their expressive faces and their ebullient belting of these incredibly catchy tunes. The front-runner is most definitely the talented Matthew Predny who brings us the conflicted Princeton and the closeted Rod. This contrasts well with the carefree Nicky (the Ernie to Rod's Bert) who is brought to us by Nicholas Richard. Among the ladies, the theatre darling Madeleine Jones flexes her acting muscles with the naively sweet Kate Monster and the wickedly seductive Lucy T. Slut. Rowena Vilar brings us a capable performance as the struggling therapist Christmas Eve and in all, there doesn't appear to be any sort of chink in the casting armour.
On the other hand, some of the details seem more than a tad out of date - a possible deterrent for younger audiences. I'm not even sure when the last time I heard someone making a 'mix-tape' was, but on the scale of egregious theatrical faux pas, this is easily forgiven. Not so easily overlooked are the appearances of Gary Coleman and the many Diff'rent Strokes references which go far over the heads of the 2015 audience. With Gary Coleman's death in 2010, many will miss the subtext here and it renders this component rather tedious. However, it is the time-honoured themes of love, life and a touch of existentialism which keep this production from becoming obsolete. Jo Turner's direction of this Sydney revival is undoubtedly mischievous and after so much time on the stage, runs like a well-oiled machine under his care.
Without a doubt, the true gem of this musical is the slew of songs that after so long still make you sit up, sway and sing. They're just so clever. With such titles as 'Everyone's a little bit racist', 'The internet is for porn' and (my personal favourite) 'The more you love someone, the more you want to kill them', it's hard not to be smitten with this tongue-in-cheek approach to real life. Nonetheless, there is still room for poignancy in this production and all the warm-and-fuzzies that follow. In their final perceptive song 'For now' (detailing how quick life can pass us by) we are invited to see how every moment is fleeting, the good, the bad and the terrible (reassuring us with their oh-so-prophetic 'Tony Abbot is only for now') and entreating us to enjoy it while we can. A fun musical for all over 18's, Avenue Q will make you both laugh and think, leaving you to reflect on what it means to be alive. Yet, in the end we must remember -
'Don't stress! Relax! Let life roll off your backs! Except for death and paying taxes, everything in life is only for now'.