Review: Avenue Q (Theatre Royal, Brighton, until Saturday, June 9)

Decidedly adult themes, lyrics that may offend, and smutty puppets with shock value - all come together brilliantly in the hilarious and enjoyable musical Avenue Q, which makes a welcome and popular return to Brighton.

This is Sesame Street with attitude, several worlds away from the Muppets that inspired it, and it’s true that some may shuffle with embarrassment at the profanity and un-PC grown-up humour. But the fact is the show by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx is screamingly funny at every moment, and although its backdrop is all-American it is clear to see why British audiences have been lapping it all up since it first hit the West End in 2006.

In Avenue Q some of the cast are human, while others are puppets given life by actors who, in spite of visibly manipulating their characters, ensure that we can believe every emotion and mood swing - whether college graduate, monster, or ‘bad ideas bear.’

There’s actually a neat little coming of age story in it all, suggesting that while kids’ TV shows might have simple resolutions and happy endings the real world is a harder place altogether to find one’s purpose in life - but if you don’t want to take the show that seriously, just sit back and enjoy the fun. How seriously are we going to take the moral message of a show which counts among its musical numbers such gems as The Internet is for Porn, Schadenfreude and Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist?!

It would seem that a talented young company are getting their chance to shine at different venues on this tour: at Brighton we are being treated to newcomer Sam Lupton in the central role as puppet Princeton, the fresh-faced graduate with a useless degree, finding his feet and friendships on the avenue. He has a great voice and range, showing off his skill still more when playing closet gay Rod.

Katharine Moraz is fab too as the sweet Kate Monster who falls in love with the new arrival, and the sleazier Lucy the Slut, who she makes alluring and sexy. It’s great to see accomplished Chris Thatcher back in the show as the lovable porn-addicted Trekkie Monster, Rod’s housemate Nicky, and one of the cute but naughty bears.

The puppets don’t have it all their own way: the human residents are expertly played by Edward Judge (as would-be stand up comic Brian), Julie Yammanee superb as his Asian girlfriend Christmas Eve, and Matthew J Henry perfect as an all grown-up version of the late child star Gary Coleman.

This touring version of Avenue Q is a blast, with an excellent young cast making sure it’s as fresh, funny, memorable - and wicked - as ever.

David Guest