‘Modern Millie’ makes debut 

Whistler Secondary School’s latest musical is a romance and comedy, all rolled into one

click to enlarge High Drama Cayley Alexander (Muzzy Von Hossmere), James Brett (Mr. Grady), Merritt Patterson (Miss Dorothy), Loonie Wake (Millie Dillmount), Jordan MacDonald (Jimmy Smith). Photo by Holly Fraughton
  • High Drama Cayley Alexander (Muzzy Von Hossmere), James Brett (Mr. Grady), Merritt Patterson (Miss Dorothy), Loonie Wake (Millie Dillmount), Jordan MacDonald (Jimmy Smith). Photo by Holly Fraughton

What: Thoroughly Modern Millie

When: Friday, April 25 until Sunday, April 27, 7:30 p.m.

Where: MY Millennium Place

Tickets: $15 adults, $9.99 students, $5 children under 12

Song spills out from the auditorium at MY Millennium Place late Monday afternoon, and mere minutes later a herd of teenagers comes thundering through the door to snag slices of pizza.

These members of the Whistler Secondary School’s drama club are taking a quick break before they get back to work, rehearsing for the sixth annual musical production that’s set to take place in less than two weeks.

Rebecca Ford, consulting director for this year’s production, is nearby, keeping a close eye on the students. Ford has a background in musical theatre, but she isn’t taking the lead in this year’s production — rather, she’s standing by to offer her expertise to student directors, Tory Williamson and Eleanor Messeguer, if it’s needed.

“I basically hold Eleanor and Tory’s hand and help them through with any questions they have,” she explained.

Williamson and Messeguer have both devoted a significant amount of time to the upcoming performances above and beyond the twice-weekly rehearsals. They’ve had a hand in almost every aspect of the show, from selecting the musical, to casting, to set design, costumes and lighting.

“They do it all — the choreography, everything,” said Ford. “It is a huge undertaking to do as a student, when they’re also trying to finish their Grade 12 year.”

A lot of time and effort goes into this annual student-driven production — Millennium Place was booked last spring, auditions were held in December, and rehearsals began back in January.

Both Williamson and Messegeur have been involved with the Whistler Drama Club for years, and in their senior year decided to team up to take on a leadership role in this student-driven production. Both agree that having two directors, as opposed to the typical one, has helped to balance strengths and split up the workload.

After reading through stacks of scripts, they eventually selected the ensemble piece Thoroughly Modern Millie, which tells the story of a young woman trying to find her way in the big city during the 1920s, in the midst of glamorous parties and slavery.

“It’s a comedy, it’s a love story, and there are some twists and turns in there that you don’t see coming,” said Messegeur.

This is the second year that students have received fine arts credits for their contribution to the musical, and it definitely seems to be an added incentive to get involved. They’ve had their biggest turnout ever — a cast of over 50, plus people helping out with the behind-the-scenes work.

“We do get a big turnout anyways, even without the credit, but it gives a little bit more structure,” Messegeur explained. “They know that they have to be a bit more disciplined because they’re actually working for something.”

This year, they also have 12 males participating, more than ever before.

“They dance,” Messegeur said, smiling. “They’re definitely painful at times, but they make the show.”

The flapper-inspired costumes, some of which were borrowed from other schools that have put on similar productions and some of which were specially designed for the chorus line, also promise to impress — though even the directors won’t see the whole cast decked out until their first dress rehearsal on April 22.

Though both Messegeur and Williamson are looking forward to opening night, they say it will be sad to see their final curtain call.

“As soon as it’s over, every year, even just being in it, you get super upset,” Messegeur said. “It’s such an emotional thing, and you get so involved in it.”

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