The Trinity Hall annual musical has never been afraid to tackle big issues and big themes. Last year, the JCR scrutinised the crippling pressures of the entertainment industry in A Chorus Line. The year before, it addressed racism in 1960s Baltimore in Hairspray. This year, it decided to perform a musical containing the song “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist”.
Avenue Q, which opened on Broadway in 2003 and deals with the crippling neurosis of being a young 20 or 30-something, is most definitely the type of musical you wouldn’t bring your mum too. A musical with lines referencing sexually transmitted diseases and “the gays”, it’s certainty not for the prudish. Incidentally, I found myself sitting next to one proud mother who, judging by her laughs of delight, definitely enjoyed the musical. The large audience certainly seemed to have a great time, cackling at songs like “The Internet is for Porn” and “My Girlfriend Who Lives in Canada”.
The musical is famous too, of course, for its use of puppets, allowing the musical’s director, Eoin Hannaway, to make history by directing the first puppet sex scene ever performed in Trinity Hall. Alongside a fantastic orchestra, and with a cast that never shied from the darkest humour of the script, Hannaway has produced a classic Halls musical.
Despite the surreal element, the show deals with universal themes such as love, loss and life’s purpose, providing an unsentimental look at the perils of growing up. As Joseph O’Baoile, starring as Princeton, sang early in the show, “Gotta find out/Don’t wanna wait!/Got to make sure that my life will be great”. The rest of the musical follows the highs and lows of the residents of Avenue Q, as they try to make a success of their lives. Once you got past the strange sensation of being taught a life lesson by Trinity Hall-dwelling first years, it was hard not be feel some kind of emotional tug as O’Baoile, Niamh McCay (Kate Monster) and Eoin Hand (Nicky) sang “I Wish I Could Go Back to College”.
McCay was one of the stars of the show, as the monster who wants nothing more than to open a school for little monsters. Her duet with Stephen McMahon, as the gay, Republican, investment banker Rod, on “Fantasies Do Come True”, was one of the highlights of the night.
McMahon, who spends most of the show tormented by his sexuality, got some of the best lines of the show. He clearly relished performing “My Girlfriend Who Lives in Canada”. It’s not too often one gets to shout “she cooks like my mother and sucks like a hoover” across of a room full of proud mothers and fathers.
Special mention must also go to Lisa Murray as the dastardly Lucy the Slut. Taking on the role of assistant director as well, after starring in A Chorus Line last year, Murray was the pantomime villain every musical needs.
There was an element of sadness in the air, however, and it wasn’t just the ode to mediocrity, “For Now”, that closed the show. Avenue Q will be Brendan Tangney’s last musical as Warden of Halls. Speaking to The University Times after the show, he said: “I thought they were great, and I hope the tradition keeps on going and I look forward to coming back to lots more.”
Once again, the JCR have produced a fantastic musical. Mildly depressing, and a bit too close to reality at points, perhaps, but never before has misery business been so much fun.
Avenue Q will be performed tomorrow night at 7.30pm in Trinity Hall, as well as a matinee at 4pm.