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BWW Review: AVENUE Q at Maria Matos

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The perfect mix between sweet and raunchy

BWW Review: AVENUE Q at Maria Matos

The perfect mix between sweet and raunchy. A musical widely known for speaking to the heart millennials, a generation struggling with identity and purpose, and with unique takes in matters of love and relationships. After this long period of confinement, the production company Força de Produção returned with its adaptation of Avenue Q, bringing back the acclaimed musical for a second season scheduled to entertained audiences until November.

The play tells us the story of Luís (Samuel Alves) and Marta Monstro (Ana Cloe), two neighbours from different backgrounds who gradually fall in love. The interaction between the pair moves from awkward to adorkable, much due to Marta's naïve and optimistic personality and Luís's joyful commitment to finding his life's dream. The two live in a cheap and broken-down area of central Lisbon, where they become close friends with the couple Tozé (Diogo Valsassina) and Maria (Raquel Tillo Clayton), long-term roommates Félix and Joca (Manuel Moreira and Rodrigo Saraiva), former child celebrity turned doorman Saúl Ricardo (Rui Maria Pêgo) and the creepy yet hilarious serial masturbator Trekkie (Rodrigo Saraiva and Inês Aires Pereira).

Despite its Sesame Street-like dynamic, don't let the furry googly-eyed characters on stage fool you - a good part of the show is a bit too raunchy for younger viewers. This is precisely one of the factors that makes Avenue Q so attractive to young adults. The authors saw the potential of mixing a performance format often associated with children entertainment from the 1980s and 1990s, with themes and a style of humour suited for adults who grew up in these decades.

BWW Review: AVENUE Q at Maria Matos

It was a pleasure to know that tickets were sold out despite the current holiday season and the Covid-19 pandemic, and that venues, production companies, performers and audience alike remain committed to theatre and the arts in these turbulent times. A most sincere word of thanks to the artists, the staff and all those who keep supporting their work.

The gold: This is a very close call, but the gold has to go to those who were able to adapt Avenue Q to the Portuguese reality and generate the right sense of nostalgia. The scenery was on point; the puppets' mannerisms and voice tones were straight out of the old school classics of Rua Sésamo and Jardim da Celeste and even the cast managed to include iconic actors from teen series of early 2000s. Also, while Portuguese versions of foreign songs often fail to live up to expectations, this was clearly not the case for Avenue Q. Nothing felt forced, the flow was great and the reference to modern day politicians and celebrities added an extra touch of Portugueseness, which further linked the production to the national setting.

The silver: A humour style and collective pace that allowed everyone to shine. Despite the existence of two clear protagonists, other humans and puppets had enough space in the narrative for character development and to present their own comedy bits. Here, however, we would give a special word of praise to Pêgo's Saúl Ricardo, who seemed to be the best-balanced character on stage. While some were unquestionably hilarious, like Saraiva's Trekkie and Aires Pereira's Paula Porca, the unavoidable one-dimensional nature of these figures made their humour profoundly funny, yet unsurprising. On the other side of the spectrum were Luís and Marta, who had to anchor and grow too much in the narrative to just be funny all the time. Somewhere in the middle was Saúl, who, thanks to a brilliant performance by Pêgo and the name recognition of the former child celebrity turned doorman, gave the audience the right dose of nostalgia, context, progression and clever humour.

BWW Review: AVENUE Q at Maria Matos

The bronze: Singing. In general, group numbers were quite solid and entertaining, especially in moments when members of the cast vocalized in the background. The contrast between a style of music you would associate with your childhood and well-written lyrics with adult content is one of the best dichotomies of this musical, and Força de Produção made the best of this asset. As for the best singers, we have to give it to Cloe and Tillo Clayton. While Cloe seemed best suited to slow and more emotional numbers, Tillo Clayton's was all about strength and range. Unsurprisingly, their duet was the number most praised by the audience.

Suggestions: Not a major issue, but in some occasions the delivery was slightly affected by the quality of the sound. In dialogues or monologues the matter was never a problem, but in group songs with multiple interventions and the band playing in the background some verses fell lost in the mix.

Again, thank you all for a great night and we hope to see you again soon.

To reach out to the writer: nuno.de.sousa.lopes@gmail.com

Image credit: Filipe Ferreira


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From This Author David Sousa Lopes