Missoula Children’s Theatre returns 

Travelling theatre production brings opportunities to children

What: Missoula Children’s Theatre auditions

Where : Myrtle Philip Community School

When: Monday, Oct. 13, 4 p.m.

A couple of modern minstrels are set to arrive in Whistler this Monday, intending to captivate the local children. But instead of leading them out of town Pied Piper style, their plan is to keep them right here, embark on an ambitious rehearsal schedule and perform a full-length musical, all within the course of a week.

The Missoula Children’s Theatre team of Bill Murray and Kylie Orr have in their little red truck, all the costumes, makeup, props, and sets for a production of the Frog Prince, a modern adaptation of the classic fairy tale.

Fresh off a performance last week in Beaverlodge, Alta., they’re ready to do it all again in Whistler. They just need a cast of between 50 and 60 kids, aged kindergarten to Grade 6. Auditions are scheduled to start at 4 p.m. on Monday in the Millar room at Myrtle Philip Community School, with the first rehearsal for select cast members beginning immediately afterwards. Murray stresses that no preparation is necessary.

"Just come with a smile and a nice loud voice," is all he asks.

He definitely knows what he’s talking about. With a production every week for months at a time, he’s directed more musicals in a year than the most seasoned Tony award winner will in an entire lifetime. When the last frog costume is packed up after the big performance on Saturday, he’ll be off to somewhere else – another community, village, town, city, another public school, private school or camp. It’s a rigorous schedule, made up for by what he considers the rewarding nature of the job: working with kids, working in theatre and working for a company he admires.

"It’s just a blast," he enthuses. "Every week is such a totally unique experience."

He himself had to audition for a position on the Missoula team and says he was offered the job with four days to decide whether he wanted to give everything up to go on the road.

"I couldn’t turn it down," says Murray. "It’s such a fantastic opportunity. You get to see the world, meet kids from everywhere. And the company, their goals are something you can get on board with."

Those goals include an open armed policy for kids of all abilities and backgrounds, bringing their talents together to perform something creative and exciting. Murray says one of the most rewarding aspects of the job is bringing the production to communities that have no alternatives and watching the kids and parents rally behind the production.

"You go to a lot of communities where their arts budget has been cut or they never had one in the first place, and this is it," says Murray. "And the kids all come, and they’re all ready and it makes me sad on the one hand to know that they don’t have a regular arts program. But on the other hand it’s great to see that the enthusiasm exists, that it’s there."

The kids in every locale, he adds, characteristically possess the innocent can-do attitude necessary for an undertaking on the scale of a full-length musical with only a few days of rehearsal.

"No one tells these kids it’s impossible," he chuckles. "You get a bunch of adults together and you tell them, ‘okay, we’re going to do this hour and 15 minute long musical and we’re going to put it together in five days.’ Everyone goes ‘No! That’s impossible!’ But the kids don’t know that. They just go along for the ride. They’re like, ‘okay, if you say it’s possible, we’ll do it.’"

While Murray admits it’s in kids’ nature to get out of hand sometimes, he and Orr have an ace up their sleeves when it comes to getting everyone organized and listening.

"They’re relying on us to look good at the end of the week," says Murray. "They’re going to have to get up in front of their peers and their parents and everyone and they’re going to have to perform and we’re the ones teaching them how to do that. I think in the end they realize that."

Missoula’s appearance in Whistler is an initiative of the Whistler Arts Council in conjunction with Rainbow Retreats, the Resort Municipality of Whistler, the Province of B.C.’s Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General, and the B.C. Arts Council.

The company toured the area last year with a performance of Jack and the Beanstalk. Call 604-935-8419 for more information on this year’s production of the Frog Prince. Check out www.mctinc.org for more information on Missoula Children’s Theatre.

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