Dunbar native performs in 'Avenue Q'
Dunbar native David Mahokey is performing the next two weekends in Split Stage Production's “Avenue Q,” which opened on Thursday at the Greensburg Garden and Civic Center.
A TONY® “Triple Crown” winner for Best Musical, Best Score and Best Book, “Avenue Q” was created by the same team that brought Broadway “The Book of Mormon.” “Avenue Q” beat out “Wicked” for the 2004 TONY award for Best Musical.
The show opened Split Stage Production's second season.
“One of the cornerstones of Split Stage is to do productions that are rarely ever produced outside of Pittsburgh. We felt that a comedy would be a great alternative to our inaugural production of ‘RENT.' Being an award winner for its book, score and overall production, we knew ‘Avenue Q' would be the best fit. It addresses many hot-button topics, but it does it in a fun and extremely entertaining way,” said Split Stage Production's co-founder and “Avenue Q” director Rob Jessup.
The show uses puppets and live talent along with outrageous songs to present an irreverent commentary on a spectrum of hot-button social issues and brings audiences along for the uproarious ride.
Despite an initial resemblance to a Jim Henson creation, the puppets of “Avenue Q” bring to life a more adult-appropriate storyline revolving around the experience of fresh-faced college graduate, Princeton, who moves to a dingy New York City apartment on Avenue Q.
Through the endearing exploits of characters, including the “Girl Next Door” Kate, “The Republican” Rod, and the Internet porn addict Trekkie, Princeton and his friends manage to humanize themes of young love, enduring friendship and the purpose of life.
Mahokey, 23, who currently resides in Pittsburgh, will join other local actors from in and around Westmoreland County that have come together to create these outrageous characters.
“I puppet and voice Nicky and Trekkie Monster, as well as puppet countless other characters randomly throughout the show,” Mahokey said. “It is my first time with puppets outside of playing with my sister when we were babies. I think my puppet skills have since improved greatly. I have watched a lot of Muppet movies in the past 20 years, so I hope that translates well.”
Mahokey said he loves working with the puppets but thinks he likes doing the character voices more.
“I've always liked voice over work and creating character voices. It's a lot of fun to switch back and forth between the voices sentence after sentence,” Mahokey said.
Jessup said Mahokey was cast in the show for numerous reasons.
“First of all, he is an extremely talented and gifted guy. His ability and willingness to have fun during his audition and play around with different character voices was a great indicator that he would be great to work with. He took direction very well, which, for a director, is something you really want to see during an audition. One of the other things that secured the roles for him was his ability to hit all of the notes while using the character voices. David naturally has a high voice which is great, but it can be very difficult to sing when manipulating the voice to sound like cartoon characters. He does it extremely well and does it without doing damage to the voice,” he said.
Jessup said while Mahokey actually puppets 4-5 different characters throughout the show, the two primary personalities, Nicky and Trekkie Monster, are a lot of fun and Mahokey brings a lot to those characters from his vast stage experience.
“I can safely say that those who have seen him in some of his previous roles will see him in a whole new light after this show,” Jessup said.
Music director Lena Gabrielle said music for the show will appeal to the audience and stick in their heads and people may recognize some of the songs because they have become famous outside of the show.
She said she is happy to have Mahokey in the cast.
“Dave is one of the most talented people I have ever worked with and I've lived all over the place, including New York City. He has a professional demeanor and his singing and acting is awesome. I know this is pretty much his dream role and I'm really happy he gets to do it,” Gabrielle said.
Mahokey said this is his first time doing the show professionally, but often sat around singing the songs and doing the voices with friends.
“So, in a way, I've been training for this show since 2005,” Mahokey said.
Mahokey thinks the audience will like the catchy music and the multitude of jokes, all performed by a great cast. He said the idea for the show as a whole is a good one.
“What happens when Sesame Street goes bad and deals with other not-so-nice life problems, like racism and other modern things that we deal with today, like homosexuality,” Mahokey said.
Mahokey has a bachelor of arts degree in musical theater with a music minor from Point Park University. He was recently one of only 15 composers in the world to be accepted into New York University's prestigious Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program, which he will begin next fall, he said. “It's a two-year intense program and I couldn't be more excited for school, although it will be sad to leave my home for a few years.”
Split Stage Productions is presenting six performances of “Avenue Q.”
One was performed on Thursday. Another will be presented tonight and Saturday and also June 12-14, at 8 p.m. at the Greensburg Garden and Civic Center, 951 Old Salem Road, Greensburg.
Tickets are $20 and can be purchased online at www.splitstage.com or calling 1-888-71TICKETS. Student ticket prices are also available. Due to adult themes, parental discretion is advised for audience members under the age of 18.
Linda Harkcom is a contributing writer.