Four and a half years, three different West End homes, and an 18 month stay of execution, but Avenue Q's London residency has finally come to an end at the Wyndhams Theatre, which ironically stands feet away from the Noel Coward where it started out life all those years ago.
I will be honest I think since the departure of Daniel Boys and Julie Atherton (the second time around) the cast has lacked the strength it once had. Daniel had done a fantastic job following on from the phenomenal Jon Robyns, But Paul Spicer for me lacked the charisma that both Jon and Daniel had bought to the lead role. Equally Cassidy Jansen in the role of Kate and Lucy seemed not to live up to the likes of Becky Lock and Julie Atherton who had been so vibrant in the role before hand. I will state at this point that these are just my views, others have said that this is the best cast to date... we will just have to agree to disagree on that one.
It would be wrong to tar the current cast with the same brush. Tom Parsons spent many a show hiding in the shadows as one of the male understudies. In fact the first time I saw the show Tom was covering the role of Trekkie/ Nicky in the absence of Mark Goldthorpe. For reasons unknown to man or beast and indeed monsters alike, Mark Goldthorpe left the show with minimal notice which left the door for Tom Parsons to take up the role on a permanent basis. He has most definitely outshone Mark and would give Simon Lipkin who originated the role in London a run for his money also.
But cast aside, who would have thought that Avenue Q had what it would take to survive in the West End for so long. In essence bringing a show to the West End is like throwing yourself into choppy waters without a life jacket. In many cases you simply drown, few shows last long enough to make an impact. Quite what Avenue Q did to survive for so long we will never know. Maybe it was simply down to the marketing and ticket prices which under cut competitors. It could be that the use of puppets bought musicals into a new dimension. Though for me the reason is much more simple... it is a feel good hilarious show that you just want to see time and time again.
The biggest issue that Avenue Q faced was that it had to fight off competition from more conventional and traditional productions such as Les Miserables and Billy Elliot, which quite obviously has more appeal to your average theatre goer than a comedy musical with puppets. Though it was this very point which I loved about the show. This was not a show for your average theatre goer - it opened the door to new people, sceptics of theatre and those who just thought that theatre wasn't their thing. In essence the show drew people in who would never go and see a show like Les Mis, and why? It boils down to the fact that theatre still has an out dated class system attached to it. It is not thought as a working class past time, people still think of the theatre as posh and snobby. Shows like Avenue Q demonstrate that this really isn't the case and allowed a new market to access the arts. You know what? I think London owes Avenue Q a lot more than people think...
So final night - how to wrap up all that time in London? It needed to be special... How about a sing along version of the Internet Is For Porn - featuring Simon Lipkin (original Trekkie/ Nicky) and Jon Robyns (Original Princeton/ Rod)? Sounds great doesn't it? As a fan of the show and speaking on behalf of all the others - it was a nice way to wrap the show up and take it home with a bang. So from a personal perspective it is sad to see the show leave the West End, but for those who missed it first time found it is on tour in 2011 - and yes... I will be going to at least one show!