When Staples Players produced “A Chorus Line” last year, they knew the choreography would be challenging.
Puppets for “Avenue Q,” by contrast, seemed like child’s play.
But preparations for the spring production — set for next Friday, Saturday and Sunday (March 21, 22 and 23) — proved surprisingly tough.
“Learning how to make the puppets be alive is a lot harder than it looks,” says director David Roth. “They breathe. They have tics. Wherever the human holding the puppet looks, the puppet has to look too. Wherever the puppet moves, the human has to follow. It takes an incredible amount of practice.”
Practice makes perfect. Thanks to Roth and co-director Kerry Long; master puppeteers Rick Lyon (who conceived and designed the puppets for the Tony Award-winning show) and Pam Arciero (who portrays Grundgetta on “Sesame Street”) — and the long, hard work of the high school actors — when the curtain rises, Players will add one more remarkable talent to their amazing 56-year-long history of theatrical accomplishments.
Roth says that the puppet-wielding Players are not the only ones to gain an appreciation of the difficulty of this craft. “Kerry and I realize more than ever before how tough this is,” Roth says. “It’s been great to watch the kids rise to the challenge. Every day, the puppets become more and more believable.”
Learning puppetry was not the only challenge. The winter’s long series of snow days and early dismissals — normally cause for teenage joy — sent shivers down the cast and crew’s spines. Players lost 10 rehearsals — 8 of them involving puppet education — to weather. Add in February vacation, and it’s been very tough sledding.
But the show must go on. Players will — as always — be ready.
Audiences will love “Avenue Q,” Roth predicts. It’s not the R- (X?-)rated Broadway version. This “School Edition” dispenses with 4-letter words. “It’s got all the themes and words you’d find in a PG film or on prime time TV,” the director says.
Nearby, a puppet nods his head.
(“Avenue Q” will be presented on Friday, March 21 at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, March 22 at 3 and 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, March 23 at 3 p.m. Click here for more information, and to order tickets.)
(If the YouTube trailer above does not open in your browser, click here.)