In the end, the puppets stole the show at the closing-night performance of the Village Players production of "Avenue Q The Musical," which featured as well a strong cast of puppeteers and the directorial debut talents of Brian Carpenter and his production crew.
At the closing night curtain call June 9 at the James McCabe Theater, Carpenter's daughter, Kerstyn, a student at Hillsborough Community College, made sure her father knew just how special that inaugural effort was.
She presented her father with a bouquet of flowers, then told the audience how proud she was of her father, who watched as she, too, made her mark as a director in high school.
"This is why we got into theater," Brian Carpenter said on behalf of himself and his wife, Deborah, who served as the show's puppet master, making from scratch the puppets in the show. "You help backstage with the sets, directing traffic in the parking lot, working concessions, and next thing you know you're directing a Tony award-winning musical."
En route to that role, Brian and Deborah Carpenter have staged a number of "Raising the Roof" revues, which served as a chance for students to better prepare their numbers for high school thespian competitions. The show evolved, too, into a showcase for a more global mix of youth and adult talent.
Eizabeth Feist went home with the Sylvia Jones award following the closing night performance of the show. The award is given at the close of each Village Players show to the actor or actress who shines significantly in a small role. Feist's role was to serve as the "second-hand" puppeteer for three of the cast members.
Helping his actors work with their puppets became Carpenter's crucial goal, aided by the puppetry talents of Christina Jacoby. Carpenter was aided in the production overall by Miguel Marin, who served as the show's assistant director and sound technician.
"It was hard to get the actors to realize that they were not stars, their puppets were the stars," Carpenter said. "To get them to put the puppets forward and get them [the actors] to verbalize and project."
Tyler Wood put forth his puppets, playing the roles of Nicky, Ricky and the Newcomer.
"I didn't even know it was [Carpenter's] first show," Wood said. "He really knew what he wanted to do and he made sure we got there. He didn't leave any blank spots."
As for her role as puppet master, Deborah Carpenter said it certainly was a challenge.
"I looked at a lot of pictures and made sure the die-hard fans of the show would be pleased," she said. "I knew the direction I had to go."
The adult-themed musical opened May 25 and wrapped its three-weekend run with its closing-night show June 9.
"Avenue Q The Musical" is winner of the Tony "Triple Crown" for Best Musical, Best Score and Best Book. As noted on its Web site, the show is "part flesh, part felt and packed with heart."
The show "is a laugh- out-loud musical that tells the timeless story of a recent college grad named Princeton who moves into a shabby New York apartment all the way out on Avenue Q," according to the show's synopsis. "There, he meets Kate (the girl next door), Rod (the Republican), Trekkie (the Internet sexpert), Lucy the Slut (need we say more) and other colorful types who help Princeton finally discover his purpose in life."
Along with the Carpenters, Marin and Jacoby, the the production staff for "Avenue Q The Musical" included Lucas Coura as vocal director; Heather Cazzola as choreographer; Kyle Yerdon as stage manager, Adam Murray, for lighting and sound; Zach Rosing and Ben Phillippe, as lighting and sound technicians; and Ramona Montgomery, for the programs. Set design and construction was by Keith Holmes, Brian Carpenter and Frank Goyco.
'AVENUE Q' CAST:
- Lucas Coura, as Princeton
- Kat N. Coates, as Kate Monster
- Tyler Harrison Wood, as Nicky and Ricky
- Keturah Hawk, as Gary Coleman
- Julian Anthony Kazenas, as Rod and a Bad Idea Bear
- Matt Elliott, as Brian
- Sam Schneider-Behen, as Christmas Eve
- Joshua Willis, as Trekkie Monster
- Elizabeth Feist, as a Bad Idea Bear
- Jamie Millan, as Lucy the Slut and Mrs. Thistletwat