Anita Burleson dug deep into the best of musical theatre for inspiration for her new show.
The Musical Musical is the result, with students from Burleson's performance arts company LB Productions, performing.
"What we're doing is taking you on a journey through some of several famous musicals — we have Fiddler on the Roof, The King and I, Westside Story and then Dreamgirls — and you're guided through them by the Phantom of the Opera," she explains.
The phantom in question is local comedian Brandon Barrett (a man also known for his more serious role as a news writer for Pique).
"He's so funny. It's a comical role, though he does sing and dance in it, too," Burleson says. "He's a huge part of it."
Barrett started taking LB Production's improv classes in January 2013 and signed on for their stand-up comedy class last fall. This is has led to ongoing open mic nights around the resort.
But musical theatre is a first.
"This is a little bit more nerve-wracking because I can't really sing or dance, and I don't feel as comfortable performing in that kind of role. But it has been a fun experience. It's mostly for the kids, I have a small part," Barrett says.
He adds he "would definitely not" call his singing and dancing abilities "skills."
He says: "They are very rudimentary at this point, but with practice you get to the point where you can feel good about the singing and dancing."
He says playing the Phantom of the Opera has been an interesting take on introducing musicals to a young audience.
"The premise is kids today often don't appreciate musicals of the past that so many of us grew up on, and the Phantom of the Opera, who lived under a theatre, is a big fan. He's showing kids what is so great and what they can teach and add to their lives," Barrett says.
Burleson says: "The shows come out and they're cute and fun, and we try to make them as good as they can be, but what people don't see is what is really happening. These kids' lives are completely changing," she says.
"Even the adult stuff, I've seen some great personal growth. The thing about the arts... is that it should be changing society."
Burleson talks enthusiastically about some the discoveries they have made; young people coming into the classes for the first time, some quite frightened, but all developing talents they didn't know they had.
Most of the performers are members of LB Production's teen acting and performance classes. LB's teenage singing group Shades of Gold is singing excerpts from Dreamgirls.
"What is really exciting is that our teen group has grown," Burleson says. "Each class does excerpts from a different show... we want to give everyone a chance to be seen and heard."
And the June show is also a time to say goodbye. "It's kind of teary-eyed for me because I have a bunch a of kids graduating. Some have been with us for nine years! They become like your own babies," Burleson says.
The Musical Musical takes place at Millennium Place on June 8 at 1:30 p.m. Tickets are available at www.whistlerartscouncil.com or at the Millennium Place box office, $15 for adults and $7.50 for children 12 and under.
Burleson says their previous show sold out and so she wants parents and friends to buy their tickets early.
For more information visit: www.lbentertainment.com.
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