Around 5 PM Thursday evening I was not interested in going downtown to see The Human Race Theatre Company’s highly lauded production, AVENUE Q. As the hours passed I put off getting ready until the last minute. Even with the knowledge that I was to go see a production directed by one of my favorite directors, Wright State University’s Joe Deer, I was still somewhat lethargic.
My three friends and I were spread throughout the auditorium, and I was wedged between two married couples, each I’m guessing to be in their mid to late 70’s. With the few minutes remaining before curtain, I could hear each of their conversations centered around multiple questions about the show. They had no idea. It was not until last fall that I finally saw this show. Despite the fact that it was an exceptionally well produced high school production, I still had no idea what I was in for at a non-watered down version.
And what a ride it was.
I have seen many, many funny musicals that I thoroughly enjoyed, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like what I saw last night. Jeff Whitty wrote the book which was based on the original concept, music and lyrics by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx. I can remember seeing these folks of the Tony Awards and thinking how peculiar it was that a show resembling the Muppets actually won. It was even difficult for me to wrap my mind around this entire concept as a Broadway musical.
The staging by Joe Deer was absolutely remarkable. I honestly wish the creators could see this production; I am certain they would be terribly pleased. As I marveled at some of the wonderful little touches, I could not help but think: how in the world did he think of that? But this is what makes Joe’s productions so exciting, entertaining, and most often, a step ahead of the rest.
Since I first saw Heidi Landesman’s 1985 scenic design for BIG RIVER, I have always been intrigued and greatly interested in scenic design. I even took a course in scenic design at Sinclair Community College and was blessed to have one of the most wonderful instructors in the world, Terry Stump. From the mid-1990s on, I have been even more fascinated with scenic design. Joe’s directing and clever staging was terrifically augmented by Dick Block’s scenic design. Outstanding.
To compliment the scenic design, and the staging, were very cute and terribly clever videos designed by Zach Rosing and Ben Phillippe. I don’t know if other productions have incorporated videos, but these clips were brilliantly executed.
I cannot imagine this show with out this particular cast. They were a very tight ensemble, and their true talents were clearly visible behind their puppet characters. My friends and I were particularly taken with the talents of Brett Travis who performed Nicky and Trekkie Monster, and Annie Kalahurka who portrayed Mrs. Thistletwat and one of the Bad Idea Bears. Highly entertaining.
I first met Tristan Cupp at Sinclair Community College when he was sculpting the prop, Milky White, to be used in the musical INTO THE WOODS. The craftsmanship and sculpting on that prop was astounding. Tristan is currently a cofounder and artistic director of The Zoot Theatre Company here in Dayton Ohio. Tristan’s puppet designs in this production were exceptionally brilliant.
I strongly urge everyone within driving distance to come see the show. AVENUE Q runs until 29 June, and I am considering seeing it again.
Thank you to everyone involved with this production. It is 2:15pm the following day and I am still laughing! Thank you for that gift!