The Beck Center for the Arts
“Avenue Q: School Edition”
17801 Detroit Avenue
February 14-17, 2013
7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday
3:00 p.m. Sundays
Special Student Matinee
Thursday, February 14, 10:00 a.m.
I will have to admit, I was really not sure what to expect with the production of “Avenue Q: School Edition” being performed by the Beck Center for the Arts Teen Theater on the Mackey Main Stage. It was billed as a “toned down” version of the hit Broadway play which is always a red flag. When I see the words “toned down”, it usually means that the jokes, content and soul of the show have been surgically removed.
I need not to have worried. This is a top notch performance worthy of appearing on any stage in any city including PlayhouseSquare in our fair town of Cleveland. What makes this a great production is the cast of 32 extremely talented youngsters who sing, dance and act far beyond their years. From the first song to the final number these kids exude confidence, vitality and life. You can tell number after number that a lot of hard work and long hours have gone into these seven total performances.
Along with the usual chores of performing, one added twist is added. Twelve of the actors also have to be puppeteers. After about the third song, one starts to ignore the human attached to the puppet and starts concentrating just on what the puppet is saying and doing. If this was not enough, they (the humans) also have to come up with unique voices for their cloth character and sustain those voices through the entire musical. (think of some of the famous voices invented by the Jim Henson crew). All in all it was an absolutely stupendous production from start to standing ovation finish.
The set is nothing short of magnificent, costuming for the humans and puppets is topical and well matched, lighting was right on the mark and most important, the sound was balanced and very pleasing (no easy task with a group that large to work with using wireless mikes).
Even with a group as talented as this, there are special standouts that I need to mention. Anthony Heffner as Princeton is the first on stage and his singing voice is an absolute marvel. He has a pure bell tone quality and never misses a note during the numerous numbers he participates in. Carleigh Spence as Kate Monster brings a sweet vulnerability that has the audience eating out of her hand. Michael Fox and Shaun Dillon as Nicky and Rod (respectively) work so well together in two of the most demanding roles. Meryl Juergens as Trekkie Monster does an amazing voice that shakes the rafters and Sarah Slagle and Leah Windahl as Bad Idea Bear Boy and Bear Girl draw a laugh each time they step on stage. They perfectly portray evil cuteness at its best. Mathew Fox as Brian and Amanda Chow as his Oriental wife show real chemistry while Courtney Nelson does a hilarious send-up of Gary Coleman.
Everyone in this show is destined for greatness if not in show business, then in life in general. You can see everyone brimming over in self confidence. There was not a single miscue or flubbed line the entire evening. I am sure that theater is not the only avenue of excellence in their lives.
There is one performance yet scheduled for this Sunday, February 10 at 3:00 p.m., a Thursday special student matinee on February 14 at 10:00 a.m., followed by Friday and Saturday (February 15 and 16 at 7:30) with the final performance at the Sunday 3:00 p.m. matinee on February 17. I highly recommend you take the time to support these talented young actors. You will be as wonderfully surprised as I was.
The Cast (Puppets)
Princeton, Anthony Heffner; Kate Monster, Carleigh Spence; Nicky, Michael Fox; Rod, Shaun Dillon; Trekkie Monster, Meryl Juergens; Lucy, Emma Lampe; Bad Idea Bear Boy, Sarah Slagle; Bad Idea Bear Girl, Leah Windahl; Mrs. Butz, Rachel Daso; Ricky, Perry Elyaderani; Newcomer, Brandon Schumacker; Second Arm Puppeteers, Erica Farr-Miralla, Tess, Marjanovic, and Lizzy Todia.
The Cast (Humans)
Brian, Mathew Fox; Christmas Eve, Amanda Chow; Gary Coleman, Courtney Nelson
Rachel Daso, Perry Elyaderani, Erica Farr-Miralia, Katherine Finley, Maggie Goldberg, Maria Klek, Tess Marjanovic, Brianna O’Boyle, Brandon Schumacker, Olivia Schumacker, Amanda Tilton and Lizzy Todia
Maggie Goldberg, Gary Coleman; Maria Klek, Bad Idia Girl Bear; Brianna O’Boyle; Sarah Slagle, Kate Monster; Amanda Tilton, Bad Idea Bear Boy; Leah Windahl, Lucy
Jonathan Kronenberger, Director; Ian A. Leroy, Musical Direction; Sarah Clare, Choreography; Allison Schulze, Stage manager; Kyra Shassberger, Assistant to the Director; Molly Laska, Rehearsal Assistant; Joseph Carmola, Scenic/Lighting Designer; Kathryn Musselman, Costume Designer; T.J. Rovito, Sound Designer; Jonathan Kronenberger and Allison Schulze, Properties; Character Translations, Inc., Main Puppet Rental; Molly Laska, Light Board Operator; T.J. Rovito, Sound Board Operator; Scott Legeza and Aidan McKeon, Follow Spots; Andreas Bliscik, Emma Jankowski and Kyra Shassberger, Crew; Wetzler Studios, Archive Photography and Maddy Jane Silver-Riskin, Lobby Board Design
Ian A. LeRoy, Conduictor/Keyboard 1; Vincent Cleveland, Percussion; Eric Carbenia, Guitar (Electric and Bass); Jaclyn M. Ford, Keyboard 2 and William Mitchell, Saxaphone
Tickets are $12 for Adults/Seniors and $10 for Children (18 and under) and may be purchased online at www.beckcenter.org or by calling 216.521.2540, ext. 10.
Discounted group rates are available for the student matinee. Call Customer Service Manager Rennie Tisdale at ext. 28 for more information and to schedule your student matinee.
Beck Center is located at 17801 Detroit Avenue in Lakewood. Free onsite parking is available.
This production of Avenue Q: School Edition is presented through special arrangement with Music Theatre International (MTI) and is made possible by the generous support of Cuyahoga County residents through Cuyahoga Arts and Culture and the Ohio Arts Council.
Beck Center for the Arts is a not-for-profit 501(c)3 organization that offers professional theater productions, arts education programming in dance, music, theater, visual arts, early childhood, and creative arts therapies for special needs students, and free gallery exhibits featuring local, regional, and international artists. For more information about Beck Center, visit beckcenter.org.beckcenter.org.