Avenue Quoi?

My (entirely predictably) negative opinion of what is reputedly the best musical out there…

Now, I don’t enjoy musicals. I find them generally to be half-arsed mashups of two incompatible genres of art, inevitably leading to a reduced quality of both music and dialogue. Which is not to say I don’t enjoy opera, but somehow the wonderful music there tends to make up for the laughable dialogue of (say) ‘Cosi fan tutti’. Mind you, there’s some cracking dialogue and themes in Wagner. Anyway, I digress. The reports I had heard about Avenue Q, which is finishing its London run soon, were either that it was the ‘funniest thing EVER’ or that it was unspeakably bad. This hadn’t inclined me to see it, but a group of friends were going last week and I decided to tag along.

In much the same fashion as the pre-show reports, the group’s opinions on the night were at polar extremes. Of the seven of us who went, four were laughing throughout, and three – myself included – barely cracked a smile. My reaction was primarily one of boredom, and to some degree, offence. I thought it was fundamentally unfunny, which pole-axed the whole experience of musical comedy somewhat, and while the music was alright, it was certainly nothing special. The puppetry was genuinely impressive, but that didn’t make up for the long stretches of faux-risqué banter (which might have been offensive fifty years ago, but should barely raise an eyebrow now). The repetitive nature of the jokes was wearing – any appreciation of a witticism was soon submerged in annoyance as the same line was used five, ten, fifteen times (and by witticism I don’t really mean that, but I was clutching at straws – the internet has porn on it seemed to be the most well-thought out ‘joke’).

The offensive bits of the show weren’t to be found in the sexual content, or even in the amazing revelation that some people are (gulp) gay. Instead, the long-running gag about the East Asian woman who cannot pronounce her ‘r’s properly was what rankled. Yes, there was at least ten minutes dragged out of the old ‘flied lice’ joke. It is all framed by the idea that ‘everyone is a little bit racist’ – one of the songs, which incidentally (and incredibly) are available on CD – but instead of taking the lesson that we ought therefore to make an effort not to be, Avenue Q seems to revel in repeating hoary old clichés for cheap laughs. It’s certainly much more Bernard Manning than Bernard Righton, despite the post-multiculturalist disclaimer.

All told though, the mild frisson generated by the clumsy handling of ethnicity didn’t really outweigh the plodding dullness of the show. Not for me, sadly.

Published in: on October 10, 2010 at 10:59 pm  Leave a Comment  

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