It has a very distinctive style, and is so different to anything else mainly down to the innovative use of puppets. The actors, in blacks, are clearly visible - indeed, some characters have no puppet - but the puppetry and story are so fantastic you completely lose sight of the people operating them.
The story follows Princeton, a fresh graduate with big dreams, and the people who live around him in his new home on Avenue Q. Touching on love, sex, racism, alcohol, homophobia and discovering who you are, the show leaves no stone unturned.
With songs such as 'Everyone's a Little Bit Racist' and 'You Can Be As Loud As The Hell You Want (When You're Making Love)', Avenue Q is daring, outrageous, and has the audience in stitches. I felt the shock value was a little lessened this time around - over the years, shows such as The Book of Mormon have continued to push boundaries so far it's potentially not as controversial as it was ten years ago. However, the lyrics are still so clever, and there are elements of the story any audience member would be able to relate to.
Sarah Harlington (Kate Monster/Lucy the Slut) was an absolutely phenomenal part of the cast. The way she played each character was so spot on, and her voice blew me away. 'There's a Fine, Fine Line' is one of my absolute favourite songs and her performance was the best I've ever heard it. Richard Lowe (Princeton/Rod) was also a great character actor, although I much preferred him as Rod - one of Princeton's songs, 'Purpose', did feel a little underwhelming.
Stephen Arden was by far my favourite male cast member. Playing both Nicky and Trekkie Monster his vocals were flawless, and he got huge laughs from the audience. The skill of all those cast members operating the puppets is undeniable, and those who play and voice multiple characters seem to do it with such ease that it really is incredible. At one point, Harlington was having a conversation with herself, playing both Kate and Lucy! She didn't miss a beat.
The 'human' (i.e. non-puppet) characters didn't leave me with anything to rave about, although that is partially down to the fact I just don't enjoy the stories of their characters as much. Arina II did play a great Christmas Eve, but I felt Brian and Gary were just there to support everyone else, rather than being real stand-outs themselves.
All in all, my second experience of Avenue Q was a good one. I still adore the songs, and the puppetry and skill of the actors is so wonderful to watch. Did it feel a little dated? Yes, it did, but I don't think that takes anything away from the performance itself, it only shows how far musicals have continued pushing boundaries since Avenue Q first appeared on the scene.