High Tech High School’s Musical Theatre presents “Avenue Q,” their 30th production in 13 years. This will be the first time “Avenue Q” will premiere in Hudson County, directed and choreographed by Alex Perez. The production will also have a student band led by Rod Shepard.
“Our company is known for doing shows that push the edge,” said Perez.
High Tech High is a countywide public high school that draws talented students from all of Hudson County’s towns, including students focused on the arts. The school building is in North Bergen.
According to a press release, “‘Avenue Q’ will take audiences on an adventure that might remind them of their early post-college years or prepare them for the inevitable obstacles that life has to offer.”
The cast has been rehearsing since November and they are ready for their premiere. The cast includes Jill Carerra from Bayonne; Luis Garrido and Daena Engalla from Jersey City; Kyra Baker and Frankie Alicandri from Weehawken; Cristina Diaz and Carlos Perez from North Bergen; Max Tamarkin, Ana Beliakova, Greg Varteresian, and Julia Small from Hoboken; Khalia Rabain, Cliff Boan, Jack Haefner and Faith D’Isa from Kearny.
“It’s like ‘Sesame Street’ and ‘Family Guy’ combined.” – Julia Small
Tickets for all shows are available for purchase at the school and online for this month at www.showtix4u.com. Those interested can also call (201) 662-6800 ext. 8241.
While on Broadway the show won three Tony Awards for Best Musical, Best Score and Best Book. It is also one of the longest running shows in Broadway history, with well over 2,000 performances before it ended its run on Sept. 13, 2009. The musical was created by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx along with the book adaptation by Jeff Whitty. As “Avenue Q’s” popularity grew, so did its stage presence, and the show toured the U.S. for two years.
“Avenue Q’s” creators and Music Theatre International have altered the musical so that younger generations could perform the witty, hilarious production. The profanity, references to pornography, and many of the sexual themes and drinking scenes have been removed.
Two songs, “My Girlfriend Who Lives in Canada”, and “You Can Be As Loud as the Hell You Want” have been removed and “The Internet is For Porn” was replaced with “Social Life is Online.” Trekkie Monster’s obsession with pornography is now for social networking sites. Mrs. Thistlewat and Lucy the Slut were renamed Mrs. Butz and Lucy.
When the school edition came out during the summer Perez jumped at the chance to direct it.
“It’s a whole different version and more age-appropriate,” said Perez.
Felt and flesh actors
Unlike other puppet shows, “Avenue Q” has humans alongside their puppets throughout the show instead of having them hidden.
“The humans aren’t hidden like a normal puppet show, we’re just as much a part of the experience as they are,” said junior Max Tamarkin, who plays Princeton.
The puppets bring a different element to the production with their brazen honest view of society.
“With the puppets it allows us to tell the truth about society,” said senior Faith D’Isa who plays Christmas Eve. “’Avenue Q’ is similar to the Muppets and Sesame Street, that’s the innocence of being a child and that wonderment of what puppets bring.”
“It’s like ‘Sesame Street’ and ‘Family Guy’ combined,” said junior Julia Small, who plays Kate Monster.
Looking for a purpose
The main character Princeton is the focal point of the story as he and other characters search for their purpose in life. Princeton graduates college and moves into an apartment on Avenue Q.
“[Princeton] spends the entire show trying to figure out what his mission is in life and I think we’re all searching for that,” said D’Isa.
The characters struggle to find love, jobs and their life’s purpose.
The cast consists of three human characters and eleven puppets. The human characters are Christmas Eve, a Japanese therapist with no patients and her fiancé Brian, an unemployed comedian; and Gary Coleman, a child star from an 80s sitcom “Diff’rent Strokes” that had his money extorted by his parents and business partners.
Former “Avenue Q” actor Rob McClure held a puppetry master class at High Tech High School on Monday, Feb.11. McClure taught the students how they must breath with their puppets and use hand gestures since they have fixed facial expressions.
“That was one of the most incredible experiences of my life,” said D’Isa.
According to a press release, “McClure made clear to students that the puppeteer was not just a person working a puppet, but an extension of the puppet.”
Classes in mask making, puppetry, body alignment, expression, acting technique and movement were part of the methods used to prepare for the production.
Vanessa Cruz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org