Thursday was a sunny day, sweepin' the clouds away for UNBC's musical theatre club. Morning coffee and newspapers brought them the news that the university's strike was over and their months of rehearsals were not tossed in Oscar The Grouch's trash can.
Club co-founder Arielle Bernier is the director and primary producer of Avenue Q, the Broadway smash that uses Sesame Street motifs to tell grown up stories with a heavy dose of laughter and song.
It's the first time the play has been produced in Prince George. Bernier said it was an ambitious project, but its burst of popularity for actors and audiences alike was impossible to resist.
"When people first hear about it, they think it's a weird idea, and I did too. I thought it sounded stupid when it was first suggested, but then I watched it and I got the same reaction almost everyone gets: it's one of the greatest things ever," she said.
The show has about a dozen puppets, which the cast and crew had to make themselves. A couple of them were quickly constructed out of repurposed plush toys, but most of them were totally original builds, which taught the student actors a whole other set of theatre skills few other plays could provide for them.
"We made all those ourselves. Each one took about 20 hours to build, on average," Bernier said. "It is not a puppet show where the operator is hidden from the audience, the puppets and the actors are always interactively visible. We call Avenue Q an adult comedy spoof on Sesame Street. It tells uplifting stories even though the plot is dark in some ways. It is very uplifting the way it is presented in its songs and its puppets."
This is the fourth year for the UNBC club. Bernier chipped in $400 of her personal money to get it started when she discovered, upon her arrival at UNBC from hometown Dawson Creek, that there was no musical theatre association. Others readily joined the idea and now this year's production budget is $8,000, indicating the healthy growth they have experienced.
For many of the actors and stagecrafters involved, it is their only contact with drama or musicals. For some it is something they are considering for a future profession or at least a main hobby.
Bernier said it was a major connector to the UNBC community for those involved, and a prime opportunity for students to participate in live theatre either as a member of the show's credits or the ones in seats applauding the efforts of their peers. Bernier has hopes it will one day be worth some school credits "since putting on a production is harder work than any class."
She's a biology major who has one more year at UNBC before she graduates. She is looking now for the next set of students cycling through the university to step into organizational roles to ensure the club carries on after she is finished.
"This cast has 16 people, it is the first time we've done a Broadway show, and it is the first time we've travelled with the show. We will be doing a performance in Quesnel as well," she said.
UNBC's production of Avenue Q opens on Wednesday. It's full run is March 25 to 28, with doors opening each night at 6:30 and showtime at 7 p.m. at the university's Canfor Theatre.
The Quesnel show is March 29 at Correlieu Secondary School at 7 p.m.
Now that the UNBC Faculty Association strike is over, tickets can be sold with certainty. They are available at Books And Company and the UNBC Winter Garden.