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Street wise puppets come of age

Avenue Q, Abbey Theatre, Nuneaton, until April 29.

Impressive, brave, eccentric....where do you start with Avenue Q? - the musical that's definitely not for your average musical lover.

Not that there isn't some amazing singing on display by members of Nuneaton Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society at the town's Abbey Theatre.

In fact their vocal range is so great that I spent the first half of the show firmly believing several of the characters had some hidden squeak-box gadget helping to raise their tones to a higher pitch. Because they have to sound like puppets.

Not any puppets. But grown-up versions of those famous Sesame Street puppets who first used public television to teach American children their ABC back in 1969.

This risqué satire aimed at adults, and specifically college graduates, offers very different lessons about porn on the internet and one night stands.

The puppets, manipulated by their alter-ego singing "handlers", actually swear between songs and have realistic "relationships" live, on stage.

Avenue Q first opened on Broadway in 2003, came to London's West End in 2006 and has gone on to be produced in pretty much every country that receives American television programmes.

It's rude, heartwarming, and funny, as much-loved characters like Princeton arrive in a run-down neighbourhood, armed with his degree and looking for his purpose in life.

In this case Princeton, superbly manipulated and sung by Richard Baldwin, is sidetracked via his entanglements with Kate Monster (Jenny Jennings), Lucy the Slut (Jenny Chappell) and his teddy bear demons, Zoe Kemp and Laura Warwick.

I loved Jenny Jennings' singing of Kate, especially "There's A Fine Line", while Jenny Chappell had a whale of a time with slutty Lucy. Meanwhile, Trekkie Monster (David Hellyer) regales the audience with his personal anthem: "The Internet is for Porn", while Rod (Tom Kerby) and Nicky (Ethan Hopkins) question whether they might be gay.

This is after Cat Reeves and Wolfie Richardson-Lee have us giggling along with the concept that "Everyone's A Little Bit Racist...."

Which Cat - being a foreigner - pronounces "Lacist."

You get the drift.

This is not for everyone but it is a clever, off-the-wall comedy directed by Kevin Benson, who also has fun in his role as straight-man Brian, the struggling comedian.

The final number, For Now, sung by the whole cast, even makes reference to Donald Trump.

What is for everyone aged five upwards is the special matinee, Adventures In Time and Musicals, at 2.30pm on April 29th. This features Disney tunes and a hunt for the same great Sesame Street puppets before NAODS has to hand them back.

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