An irresistibly charming tale of the loveable characters on a downtown New York street trying to make sense of life’s burning issues comes to the Reading Hexagon this week.
Avenue Q was created by Jeff Marx and Robert Lopez, co-creator of Book of Mormon and writer of the songs for Disney’s Frozen. It won the Tony Awards “Triple Crown” for best musical, best score and best book.
Peter Anderson chatted to Lawrence Smith who plays Princeton in Avenue Q. “I came late to acting,” he says, “my first love was singing. As a teenager, I sang with the National Youth Choir of Scotland. I trained as a classical singer with the Royal Academy of Music and Royal Scottish Conservatoire before moving into musical theatre. If the acoustics are right, backstage there is always a chance I may burst into some Purcell!”
Who has been the inspiration for Lawrence as he has widened his skillset from being a classical singer? “Without a doubt, Audra McDonald. Like me, she trained as a classical singer” in her case at the Julliard. She has won six Tony awards across all four acting categories and is equally at home on Broadway or performing with Houston Grand Opera.
Speaking of widening his skillset, is this the first time Lawrence has worked with puppets? “Absolutely, it’s a challenge combining acting and being true to the character and also manipulating the puppets and keeping everything under control.” He may have not worked with puppets, but he has certainly learned how to handle gadgetry on stage, one of his recent roles was the lead in Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd!
What can the Hexagon audience look forward to? “An evening of mischief, bad behaviour and political incorrectness! There are loads of funny songs, and everyone knows it has adult content. But I think the thing that the audience can look forward to is being surprised by the story. With people concentrating more on the songs, etc. I think the story and what it says about human relationships is something that almost tends to creep up on people without them realising.
Princeton has recently graduated with a BA in English – useful for – well we’ll see, he thinks he is a “bright young thing”. Heavily influenced by what he has seen on television he moves to New York, the place where all bright young things hang out. He arrives at Avenue Q, a veritable modern day Cheers, the apartment block where everyone knows your name! There he is greeted by a mixture of loveable and unforgettable characters who help not to not only guide him through New York, but also help him to discover who he is.
Well Avenue Q is the apartment block where Princeton ends up, but who would be the neighbours in Lawrence’s dream apartment block? “Dream is probably an interesting thought. It would be a dream for me, but perhaps not others in the area. I think I would love to live in an apartment block with Billy Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan. They would be a lovely group to sing with.”
New York is Princeton’s dream place to live, but does Lawrence have some dream places where he would love to perform “I have been lucky enough to perform at The Globe and the Old Vic and being Scottish it is great that the run of Avenue Q is taking me up to some Scottish venues. The one place I haven’t managed to perform at so far is the National Theatre, that would be great.”
Avenue Q is part flesh, part felt and all heart.