Eagle’s Porchlight Players break out puppets for an R-rated Valentine’s Day show | VailDaily.com

Eagle’s Porchlight Players break out puppets for an R-rated Valentine’s Day show

this show has puppets, but it's definitely not intended for kids.

However, local adults who want a grown-ups' evening out to mark Valentine's Day can find what they want at "Avenue Q" in Eagle.

The acclaimed musical is this year's dinner theater production by downvalley community theater group the Porchlight Players. Performances are slated for Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 9-11; Wednesday, Feb. 14; and Friday and Saturday, Feb. 16-17. The winner of the Tony Awards Triple Crown — Best Musical, Best Book and Best Score — in 2004, "Avenue Q" mixes puppets and human actors in a coming of age story that tackles adult topics with song and humor.

"If you recall 'The Muppet Show' or 'Sesame Street,' the puppeteers were not visible — you couldn't actually see the person working the puppets. In 'Avenue Q,' however, the puppeteers and the puppets are both on stage and visible to the audience," said production co-director Ann Olin. "After a few minutes, an amazing thing occurs. In the audience's perception, the puppeteers almost disappear, or at least they are melded with the puppets, so they become one character. The focus becomes the puppet, but the actor helps the audience understand the puppet's emotions through their body language, voice and facial expressions. It's extraordinary."

Olin noted that the plot for "Avenue Q" is timeless.

"It's about people searching for their purpose in life while learning to accept each other for who they are," Olin said. "While some of the numbers tackle rather sensitive, or even taboo subjects, it is all done with good humor. There is nothing mean-spirited about 'Avenue Q.'"

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Didi Doolittle, puppeteer-actor who portrays Kate Monster, agreed.

"It's racy but without offending people, and it touches on pertinent subjects in today's world," Doolittle said. "The show touches all bases. It is hilarious, it is touching and it is sweet."

One of Doolittle's favorite moments on stage happens when her character, who has fallen deeply in love, gets dumped. Another one of her favorite moments in the show happens when a couple of puppets do some dirty dancing.

"I just bust a gut laughing every single time I watch it," she said.

Putting the dinner in theater

The Porchlight Players take on the show aspect of the evening and Fork Art Catering delivers the dinner.

Fork Art is owned and operated by Roger and Lauren King, of Eagle, who started their catering business after working together at the Denver Marriott City Center as well as in various restaurants in Denver and throughout the Vail Valley. Roger was professionally trained at Johnson and Whales University, and Lauren has worked in food and beverage management all her life.

"They are a pleasure to work with," Olin said. "This year, we asked Lauren to create New York-themed meals, since 'Avenue Q' is set in New York City."

Winning Formula

This year's production marks the eighth year that the Porchlight Players have staged a dinner theater show to coincide with Valentine's Day.

"In 2010, our board of directors analyzed what was working and what wasn't in regards to our productions," Olin said. "We noticed that the shows we were doing on the stage at the high school were not well attended, even though they were great shows such as 'Little Shop of Horrors' and 'Barefoot In the Park.'"

The group members brainstormed about local events that were well attended such as concerts or galas and realized that the show was only part of what makes an event fun.

"The piece we felt was missing from our events was the social aspect — food, drinks, being together, talking and laughing — that you can't get while sitting in a dark theater side by side in rows," Olin said. "We had all attended dinner theaters in Boulder, Denver, Grand Junction and Fort Collins, and we thought we could add the social element that was missing by turning the Brush Creek Pavilion into a dinner theater venue. Eight shows later, we think we hit on a great idea."

Ticket sales for "Avenue Q" support Olin's assessment.

"Thanks to our loyal fans and theater-goers, all shows are currently sold out," she said. "Thank you to everyone who bought tickets already — we are overwhelmed by your support."

Avenue Q is sold out

While tickets have been sold for all of this year’s performances, the Porchlight Players do have a waiting list in the event tickets are returned.

Anyone who wants to be placed on the waiting list can email porchlightplayers@gmail.com. Include your name, the number of tickets you are looking for, which night(s) you could attend and your contact information. If tickets become available, then waiting list names will be contacted in the order in which their emails were submitted.