Whenever I've got friends visiting London, they would invariably ask for my recommendation for West End plays. As most of them would stop by London for at most a week, and London is much more than just the West End, they could at best catch two or three plays.
Naturally, I would recommend that they go for productions that would never be shown back home for several reasons. Think plays or musicals, a couple of names would come up for folks back home - Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables, Cats and Cabaret - all of which are mega production with huge casts and elaborate props. Smaller West End or Broadway names are unlikely to be staged halfway round the globe.
Also, the context and the subject matter of the production matter too. Agatha Christie The Mousetrap has never been shown in Singapore even though it has been playing in London for a couple of decades. Though Agatha Christie's novels are rather popular back home, I don't think the general populace can stomach a dialogue packed drama set in an English mansion.
With all that in mind, if you have only time enough for just one or two West End plays, let Avenue Q be one of them.
On first glance, Avenue Q, which originates from Broadway, is a mere extension of the Sesame Street with the likes of Elmo and Cookie Monster, and the title Avenue Q paralleling that of Sesame Street. That's when the similarity stops. Avenue Q is definitely one of the most politically incorrect production ever.
The unsuspecting audience, thinking that Avenue Q is a family show (read my lips, Avenue Q is no Lion King), will be horrified by the opening number, "Everyone is a little bit racist!". In the catchy tune, the puppets, skilfully manipulated, dance and sing about how there's a little racist burrowed deep in everyone. At that point in time, the parents could either join in the fun or cowered in their seats for what might come next while the teenagers shriek with delight.
Someone I know was so embarrassed when her child walked out of the theatre skipping, singing out loud and declaring to the world that "Everyone is a little bit racist!".
If you think the fun ends there, you are dead wrong. The puppet masters (shall we call them that?) belted out number after number that include "If you were Gay", "The Internet is for Porn", "I'm not wearing underwear today" and "It sucks to be me". Well, you get the idea.
Other than these outrageously hilarious songs, there were some interestingly lame joke fillers in between scenes. The one that is stuck in my mind referred to how a group of knights were protecting the princess and how each of them fell until there was only one left and thus "One Knight Stand". Hmm…
All in all, Avenue Q, which is now performed in Gielgud Theatre after moving from Noel Coward Theatre on 1st June 2009, should be taken in good fun. For those of us who grew up watching Sesame Street and the Electric Company, Avenue Q is certainly a good trip down the memory lane. In a perverse way, that is. Book your tickets here. For fans of Avenue Q, don't miss out on the complete guide to Avenue Q.
London, W1D 6AR