Letter of the Day: Avenue Q proves to be worth extra expenses and effort

Puppets that look like they came straight off the set of Sesame Street dance across the Black Box theatre and a saw whines loudly from behind the dark walls. Actors and actresses prepare with a few vocal warm ups, and junior Alex Vinh takes a break from construction.

“We were all hyped up because we’ve had some successful plays in the past,” Vinh said. “We wanted to end the season with a big production.”

And a big production it was. Cadre Kerr brought yet another work to the stage-but with a twist. Avenue Q School Edition was Cadre Kerr’s first musical production in years.

“We haven’t done [a musical] in a while,” said Vinh, who operated the puppet Princeton in the play. “The last one we had was like three or four years ago.”

As a musical, and one that seems to hold a special place in theatre director Julie Ryan’s heart, Avenue Q School Edition has demanded extra expenses as well as effort, according to sophomore Jun Tan.

“I think this is Mrs. Ryan’s, like, baby play basically,” said Tan, who portrayed the puppet Rod. “We definitely spent a lot of money on getting this play to the stage.”

To sophomore Danyal Syed, who was co-crew head for the production, money wasn’t the only thing that made the play difficult to produce.

“The musical takes a lot more work because of the choreography,” Syed said. “It’s kind of hard sometimes to nail that type of synchronization.”

The costs of a musical production are higher than those of regular plays that Cadre Kerr has performed in the past. Unlike in past productions, where scripts were bought and kept, many of the materials for this musical were not purchasable.

“We spent a whole week with a puppet teacher that we hired for like thousands of dollars,” Vinh said. “We had to rent the puppets… and rent the music and the scripts.”

The damage costs had to be taken into consideration as well.

“Usually we buy the scripts and we keep them but these we had to rent,” Vinh said, “and if anything happens to them… we have to pay for every single damage.”

Every smudge of dirt or loose bit of thread on a rented puppet would also result in additional charges.

Because of the increase in production costs, admission costs also went up. Tickets to Avenue Q ran from $8 pre-sale to $10 at the door from Cadre Kerr’s regular play prices of $5 pre-sale to $7 at the door. Before opening night of Avenue Q, some students believed the performance wouldn’t be worth the increase in pricing but audience member Andrea Magana, a sophomore, disagreed.

“It might cost a little bit more,” Magana said, “but I’m pretty sure the quality of it will pay off.”

Although expenses were quite high, to Syed, hopes and expectations for the musical were higher still.

“A regular play would obviously be easier,” Syed said. “But I think the musical really yields, if you do it right, really good results.”

Five performances ran from January 18 through 26 in Kerr’s Black Box Theatre. To Syed, opening night justified all the effort.

“We got such good reviews on the first night and the second night as well,” Syed said. “It turned out much better than expected.”

Through all the hard work, the effort, the expenses, the endless rehearsals, there’s just something about a musical that you just can’t find in any regular play, no matter how funny, or deep or thought-provoking it might be. According to Tan, it was the music.

“I like musicals, I like singing,” Tan said with a laugh. “I’m obviously biased.”

The music is something Syed also feels is what made the biggest difference.

“The musical…has a tune to it,” Syed said. “It’s something you yourself can sing to; you start singing for no apparent reason. I guess that’s the enjoyable part.”