“Without a doubt, ‘Avenue Q’ is a show that you should endeavour not to miss. The quality of the production and the dazzling performances from the actors make this show a truly great achievement for Trinity Halls.”
Last night granted me opportunity to see the Halls musical extravaganza of 2016, Avenue Q, directed by Eoin Hannaway. This Tony award-winning American musical was one of the longest-running shows ever on Broadway, and it’s clear from last night’s performance why exactly this musical has had such widespread success. Not only does it deal with current and relevant themes in a satirical and hilarious manner, it also challenges theatre norms with its use of puppets and unconcealed puppeteers.
Centered around the charismatic, yet eccentric residents of the fictional suburb of Avenue Q in New York, the main characters of the play are Princeton and Kate Monster, played wonderfully by Joseph O’Baoile and Niamh McCay. They are two college graduates with grand aspirations for their lives and the naivety only found in those yet to face the “real world”. Through a series of delightfully wacky events, they come to learn that achieving their dreams in life isn’t as simple as they had originally thought. Princeton struggles to determine what his ‘purpose’ in life is, while Kate’s dream opening a school for her fellow monsters – a particular race of puppets – seems daunting and impossible.
Joseph and Niamh both succeeded in giving winning performances as the musical’s protagonists, their tangible chemistry making their characters’ romance all the more believable, especially during their duets. Also worth mentioning are some of the musical’s more comedic characters. Stephen McMahon’s performance as Rod, the overly defensive and self-conscious closeted homosexual, was perfectly balanced by Eoin Hand’s portrayal of his loyal and protective roommate Nicky. Aside from this dynamic duo, I also enjoyed some of the fantastic one-liners from Claire Cullen’s character ‘Christmas Eve’, the kooky therapist next-door.
Admittedly, the format of this musical was somewhat disconcerting at first. I found it difficult to decide whether to focus on the puppets or the actors controlling them. However, this confusion soon eased away when I noticed the ‘human’ characters looking at and speaking directly to the puppets, guiding the attention of the audience in the process.
The overall production of this show was impressive. The set consisted of a hand-painted wooden backdrop of the houses on the avenue, complete with steps and moving doors. The main affair, the puppets themselves, were highly reminiscent of Sesame Street and the Muppets, staying true to those from the original Broadway shows and allowing for an appealing set. There were no problems with lighting or sound, which was particularly impressive given that the show took place in a sports hall and not a dedicated theatre.
Of course, the most important and fundamental aspect of any musical is its musical numbers, and I’m happy to report that Avenue Q exceeded all expectations I had coming in. All the main cast, without exception, had fantastic singing voices, and this was complimented by the wonderful chorus throughout. I was surprised to see a sizeable orchestra to the right of the stage, where Eoin Hannaway also took his place as musical director. In particular, Lisa Murray’s musical numbers in her role as ‘Lucy the Slut’ stood out from the crowd. Her powerful and sultry voice perfectly encaptured the seductive and back-stabbing nature of her character, and went down resoundingly well with the audience.
It goes without saying that this is the ideal musical for students to see. As an English student, I found one of the opening numbers, ‘What Do You Do with a B.A. in English?’, particularly (and unfortunately) relatable. The musical also serves as a commentary on several aspects of the modern world, such as political correctness, racism, homelessness, sexual empowerment, and acceptance of the LGBT+ community. Most importantly, it achieves this without coming across as preachy or political, through the use of satire and catchy tunes.
Without a doubt, ‘Avenue Q’ is a show that you should endeavour not to miss. The quality of the production and the dazzling performances from the actors make this show a truly great achievement for Trinity Halls, and proves without a doubt that a musical production from a group of committed and talented college students can rival anything shown in bigger theatres.
You can catch the final performances of Avenue Q today at 4.30pm or 7.30pm in Trinity Halls.