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Another Missoula musical gives Whistler kids the spotlight

On paper, it sounds like a concept for a new reality TV show.

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Two passionate theatre directors in a little red truck fully equipped with costumes, props, makeup and sets arrive in any given town, audition a cast of 50-60 kids, and have one week to stage a full-blown musical production.

That’s singing, dancing, live theatre. The whole nine yards.

Cue hysterical laughter from parents, teachers, coaches and anyone else who’s had to look after more than one kid for more than an hour.

Except that it’s not a farfetched idea, it’s reality. And it predates reality TV by decades.

Based in and named after Missoula, Montana, Missoula Children’s Theatre has a 30-year history of bringing bright musical productions, mostly modern adaptations of classic fairy tales, to kids in all over the globe – clearly an organization that’s taken the adage "all the world’s a stage" to heart.

The company is no stranger to Whistler. Last year Missoula brought the Frog Prince to town, and the year before it was Jack and the Beanstalk.

This year two new directors – Sarah Fisher and Kimberly Schroeder – are looking for a few good kids (upwards of 50-60 to be more accurate), aged kindergarten to Grade 7 to enact the well-known tale of Hansel and Gretel. Kids of all abilities are welcome to come out.

Auditions will start Monday, Oct. 11 at 4 p.m. sharp in the Daisy room at Spring Creek Community School. Participants must be prepared to stay for the full two-hour period. Certain cast members will be required to stay for the first rehearsal immediately following the auditions.

Mandatory rehearsals will continue throughout the week with two public performances slated for Saturday, Oct. 16, at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. at MY Place.

The professional 200-seat venue is an exciting upgrade for this year’s performance. Last year’s venue, Myrtle Philip, is a fine facility but there’s nothing like a professional venue to make for an exceptional performance experience.

While the plush seats and professional calibre green room at MY Place will be a treat, the heart of Missoula, the directors confirmed, will always lie in the cast.

"It is incredibly rewarding, especially when you’re in a community where kids aren’t really given the opportunity to do theatre very often," said Fisher over the phone from Squamish, which gets the Missoula crew the week prior to Whistler. "It’s obvious by the end of the week they are just so proud of themselves. After a week of long hours and hard work, you’d think they’d be exhausted, but normally on show day they pull out more energy and enthusiasm than you’d ever think and just put on fantastic shows."

Both Fisher and Schroeder bring post-secondary training to Missoula – Fisher in theatre and directing, Schroeder in music and dance. But as Fisher points out, the Missoula experience is an education in its own right.

"I’ve definitely learned not to take myself so seriously," she said. "Going through a college theatre background you’re just pressured with perfection, with working as hard as possible and gruelling hours.

"Kids can show you how even the simplest things can be really enjoyable. I’ve come back to the fun in theatre – hard work paired with laughing a lot, laughing at ourselves and the silly mistakes we make on stage. Kids don’t take themselves as seriously and it’s nice for us to get back to the joy of theatre."

Missoula Children’s Theatre’s stop in Whistler this year is an initiative of the Whistler Arts Council, Rainbow Retreats, the Resort Municipality of Whistler and the B.C. Arts Council.

For more information on the organization go to www.mctinc.org or call the Whistler Arts Council at 604-935-8419.

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