Thursday, June 29, 2006
London's Avenue Q Reviews: Everyone's a Little Bit Low Road
With the much-anticipated West End opening of Avenue Q at London's Noël Coward Theatre now history, the critics have paved their mediocre to middling reviews with a general lack of enthusiasm, if not outright condescension toward this Broadway export. A common critical theme was that this decidedly American (read: New York-centric) musical has not lived up to its highly subversive advance billing.
Perhaps the most scathing reviews came from Alistair Macaulay of the Financial Times and Dominic Cavendish of the Telegraph. In his seriously sarcastic review, Macaulay leads with, "To clinical addicts of industrial cuteness, and to those who like American musicals that tell us How To Lead Our Lives Better, and to those who crave another musical devoid of any musical interest whatsoever, let me heartily commend Avenue Q;" Macaulay closes his review by calling Avenue Q a "tiresome little blancmange."
Cavendish is considerably less charitable, sniping, "Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx's tame beast of a show lumbers up a cul-de-sac of one-note satire before hitting a brick wall of anodyne schmaltz. By the second half I found myself mentally rechristening it Avenue ZZZ."
Michael Billington of the The Guardian and Benedict Nightingale of The Times each bestowed 3 out of 5 stars to the show, which for the record is better than average. Yet each found sufficient fault with the tuner. Billington's beef: "Underneath the show's glancing satire there is the inevitable feelgood ending in which we're reassured that 'everyone's a little bit unfulfilled.' Having started from the premise that 'life sucks,' the show ends with the hint of false cheer that goes with musical territory."
Nightingale sums up his review channeling how Avenue Q's theatre namesake Noël Coward would have viewed the show: "He'd have regretted the relative lack of sophistication. He'd have deplored the jokey teddy bears and the cloying tribute to altruism that closes proceedings. Just like me last night."
The kindest review I found came from Paul Taylor of The Independent, who still manages to find fault by noting, "What's less attractive is the lack of real bite. Compared to Jerry Springer: The Opera, another satiric spin-off from television, Avenue Q is about as genuinely subversive as 'Friends.'"
Will British audiences have a different take than most critics, or will this production go away as fast as the Las Vegas version? I'd put money on the latter.
This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).
Click here for tickets to Avenue Q.
Avenue Q Settles Into West End Neighborhood Tonight (June 28, 2006)
Broadway's Gamble on Vegas No Sure Bet (June 6, 2006)
Ann Harada to Reprise Avenue Q Role in London (May 8, 2006)