Alysha Irvine never thought she’d be a theatre kid.
The Grade 12 Timberline student signed up for musical theatre the following year not really knowing what to expect. She caught the bug.
This Friday, Irving will star alongside her classmates in their production of Avenue Q – School Edition.
The cast likes to describe it as “Sesame Street for adults.”
“It’s the kind of musical you would go see if you’re not usually a fan of musicals. It’s very fun. It’s very out there,” says Irvine. “There’s some things in there you wouldn’t expect to see anywhere else, especially with the puppets.”
The show follows Avenue Q newcomer Princeton, a recent college grad. He meets the residents of Avenue Q and soon discovers it’s “not your ordinary neighbourhood,” according to licensing agency Musical Theatre International.
Singing and dancing isn’t easy at the best of times but this year’s cast has a new wrench thrown in: puppets.
They actually outnumber the human characters in the show.
“It’s been really interesting,” says Irvine. “It’s not like any musical I’ve been in.”
Irvine plays “Christmas Eve”, one of the show’s few human characters.
“She is an Asian therapist who moved there from Japan awhile ago,” says Irvine. “She is very head strong and very blunt. And she is married to the other human character in the show whose name is Brian and their relationship is quite funny.”
Irvine explains that one of the harder aspects of acting with puppets is actually directing your attention to the puppet over the puppeteer.
“Usually, with actors, we focus on the other actor in front of us, but this year, we can’t do that. We have to focus on the puppet and pretend they’re the person we’re actually talking to because in a sense, they are,” she says. “So it’s been pretty interesting, especially watching the actors with puppets learn how to use their puppets.”
The school is fortunate. Ben Bellosillo, who graduated last spring, designed and created all of the puppets in the show. He even made doubles so the practice puppets can be swapped out with their showtime counterparts.
“They all have their idiosyncrasies,” says teacher and musical director Celine Ouellette. “They’re all quite cute.”
For someone who was unsure of musical theatre to start, Irvine has a tough time with it coming to a close.
“We always describe it like we’re a family basically, and at the beginning of the year, you don’t really know anybody. You might know a few people, but you don’t really know them that well and by the end of it, you’re saying each other’s lines, you’re telling inside jokes,” she says. “It’s really emotional when it ends actually because you put all this work in for like five or six months and you’re spending hours doing the same thing over and over again, running the same scenes over and over again and it seems really tedious and you’re like, ‘Oh I can’t wait until this is over,’ but then when it’s actually ending, you don’t want it to end.”
Opening night is Friday, Feb. 28 at 7 p.m. There are also shows on Feb. 29, March 5, 6, and 7 in the Timberline Theatre.
Tickets are available online at Timberline Secondary’s website. Tickets for seniors and students are $12, while adult tickets are $15. The show’s content is not suitable for younger viewers.