Volume 12 Week 5

Tuesday, Jan. 21


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Orléans Ward
Bob Monette



(Posted 9 p.m., Feb. 16)

Orléans Missoula Children's Theatre production of Pinocchio a real treat
By Fred Sherwin
Orléans Online

Pinocchio gets fitted with an extra long nose after telling a fib during the Missoula Children's Theatre production of Pinocchio at Beatrice-Desloges on Saturday.. Fred Sherwin Photo

Every year for the past 15 years or so, the Missoula Children's Theatre company has come to Orléans to plant the joy of live theatre in the hearts of budding young actors and actresses between the ages five and 18.

Some of the previous productions include "The Wiz of the West", "Sleeping Beauty" and "Betty Lou and the Country Beast".

The Missoula Children's Theatre company is based out of Missoula, Montana. They specialize in so called "pop up" theatre and are a throw back to the days of travelling theatre companies that would go from town to town and enlist locals as actors and stage hands.

Members of the the theatre company spread out across North America in pairs with a trailer load of costumes, props and backgrounds in tow. They work with local residents who secure a venue, promote the production and send out a call for auditions.

Everything takes place over the course of a week. The auditions are held on a Monday, followed by rehearsals all week long, culminating in back-to-back performances on the Saturday.

Considering that the cast can be as large as 60 players, many as young as five years of age, it's very much an exercise in organized chaos. The process can be very intense, but the result can be incredibly rewarding with a strong emphasis placed on having fun.

This year's production of Pinocchio, held at Ecole secondaire Bèatrice-Desloges on Saturday. was not only fun, it was also wonderfully entertaining thanks in large part to Charlotte Rodgers who was perfectly cast in the lead role of Pinocchio.

The lanky Grade 7 student was all arms and legs in one of the most physical roles I have seen on an east end stage since I started covering local theatre over 10 years ago.

I was so impressed with Rodgers' performance that I thought she was one of the two professional actors/instructors who direct and act in the show. It was not until I double-checked the program that I realized she had to be one of the kids who auditioned. (Note to the Missoula Children's Theatre company: keep an eye on this one.)

Mrs. Gepetto, played by Missoula Children's Theatre company member Blaire Smith, reads a telegram while Pinocchio, played by Charlotte Rodgers, and the Blue Fairy, played by Emily Millan, look on.. Fred Sherwin Photo

The two Missoula members who took this group of 60 talented young actors between the ages of five and 18 and created magic in less than a week were Blaire Smith, who doubled as Mrs. Gepetto and Stromboli, and Rachel Bailey, who directed. Their efforts paid off in the most entertaining production to date.

Of course, they had a wonderful cast to work with, starting with Rodgers.

The other lead actors did a superb job in support starting with Emily Millan, who played the Blue Fairy. The role of Jiminy Crickett was played by Sydney Maloney, while Natalie Millan and Trista Willbond played the parts the Fox and the Cat. Last but by no means least the role of Candlewick was played by Monique Staples.

I was also very much impressed by the group of girls who played the street urchins. Anne Boskill, Sabrina Chan, Isabelle Gahimbare, Jillian Kimbell, Amy Lowson, Julia Millan, Jenna Rupp, Abby Saint-Yves and Kaitlyn Scheiman were all in fine voice -- again, a tribute to Smith and Bailey who knew enough to group them together.

Matthias Buhrmann, Lucas Guertin, Benjamin Millan and Samuel Pearce played members of Candlewick's crew and Alexandro Molino, Brianna Orange and Maita Saunders all played puppets, while the youngest members of the cast provided the cuteness factor as toy soldiers, baby dolls and ballerinas.

Helping out behind the scenes were Connor O'Keefe and Jessica Livingstone, while Suzanne Enright-Martin accompanied on piano.

The production was filled with little eccentricities that Missoula is famous for such as the use of telegrams to advance the plot line and occasional interactions with the audience.

Here's hoping Missoula continues to find a home in Orléans, if only for one week every February, and that budding young actors continue to take advantage of this rare and rewarding opportunity.

(This story was made possible thanks to their generous support of our local business partners.)



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