It feels a bit strange to be reviewing a show that has already been pulling in audiences for years.

But for the benefit of those who don’t know, Avenue Q is a musical with a conventional plot about the love lives of struggling young New Yorkers and a totally unique way of telling its story.

Most of its characters are puppets. But the men and women who bring these puppets to life are visible on stage with them throughout.

They sing, dance and act their hearts out while operating their puppet ‘alter egos’.

It makes for a fascinating dual experience. For long periods of time the eye and mind is focused on the puppets themselves, who take on a life of their own. But occasionally the eye moves to the right to see the puppeteer singing and emoting with real style and charisma.

It seems a bit unfair at times. These are brilliant performers using their skills to direct our attention away from themselves onto pieces of animated cloth.

Richard Morse and Arina II as the comical, chubby failed comedian Brian and his girlfriend Christmas come off best in this respect. They play their parts straight without having a puppet to hold.

They are a great comic team. His riotous ‘underwear’ song brings down the house and she has the show's best song and a beautiful voice to put it across.

Richard Lowe’s animated face and fine voice draw the eye, even when the drama is revolving around his puppet Princeton’s on off relationship with Kate Monster.

Sarah Harlington – who is the woman behind Kate Monster and her love rival Lucy the Slut – also deserves special mention for her fabulous voice and the amazing way she brings her two diverse puppets to separate life.

It is a sign of the wit and the wisdom of this show that the heroine Kate’s status as a ‘monster’ is presented as a metaphor for any racial minority. One of the wittiest songs is about how everyone is slightly racist.

The underlying theme is that we are all told we are special as children, before life intervenes to let us know that the rest of the world does not agree,

This is not a show for children. Rude words abound and the sight of the two lead puppets engaging in a night of graphic passion definitely earns it a 15 certificate.

But its wit, charm and humanity mixed with some glorious songs make it an unbeatable treat.

Fans of Elaine Paige’s radio show will have already heard most of those songs.

Avenue Q runs at Theatre Royal Windsor, in Thames Street, until Saturday. Evening performances at 8pm, Saturday matinee at 3pm. To book visit or call the box office on 01753 853 888.

Coming soon: The Deranged Marriage runs from Monday May 11 to Saturday May 16. Evening performances at 8pm, Thursday matinee at 2.30pm, Saturday matinee at 4.45pm.



by Jeff Marx

and Robert Lopez