The Missoula Children's Theatre made it's annual stop in Orléans last week, giving an opportunity for 60 young actors between the ages of five and 17 a chance to perform in their latest traveling production – "The Tortoise Versus The Hare".
As the name suggests, the Missoula Children's Theatre Company is based in Missoula, Montana and each year they send out more than 40 teams of actor/directors who fan out to more than 1,100 communities across North America where they are joined by their community hosts in staging a production from auditions to an actual play in less than a week.
|Curly Hare and Shelley Bowlback cross the finish line together with Little Bonnie Bonny in the MCT production of ‘The Tortoise Versus The Hare’ FRED SHERWIN PHOTO
No fewer than 60 kids turned out for this year's auditions which took place on Monday, Feb. 24. All but three of them were cast in the play. Those who weren't given a role, were given jobs backstage.
The five- and six-year-olds were cast in the chorus as members of the Curly Hare’s fan club, while the seven- and eight-year-olds were given roles as Curly Hare’s posse.
The older kids were given the lead roles, or they were assigned to the supporting cast.
Rehearsals began 24 hours after the auditions and continued the rest of the week after school, culminating in a pair of performances at the Shenkman Arts Centre on Saturday, Feb. 29.
Leading it all was the MCT team of Courtney Brook Marks who directed the production and Calli McCarton, who played sportscaster Buddy Courts and Osgoode, the leader of the thespian group of actors which arrives in town on the eve of the big race.
Missoula Children’s Theatre productions are known for delivering a social message to both the young cast and the audience alike.
In "The Tortoise Versus The Hare", which pits the mammals against the reptiles, the message is pretty clear – as a society we are stronger when we work together then we are when we simply stick to our respective groups.
When Little Bonnie Bunny gets lost during the big race, the mammals and the reptiles must join forces in order to try and find her. She's finally found by Coach Shelly Bowlback in the middle of the race.
When no other reptiles step up to challenge 40-time champion Curly Hare, Bowlback has to be brought out of retirement, 40 years after winning the original race,.
When Curly hears about Bowlback's selfless act in rescuing Little Bonnie Bunny in the middle of the race he decides to wait so they can cross the finish line together for the first ever tie.
I am always amazed at the end result when so many kids have to learn a play in less than a week. And not just any play. The MCT productions are usually at least 45 minutes long and contain several musical numbers.
This year's cast included Evita Martin, Aidan Schieman and Tyson Grant as the TV crew covering the race; Clark Everett as Curly Hare; and Mariam Pereria as Coach Shelly Bowlback.
I can only imagine the scene backstage with such a large cast milling around waiting for their cues. The fact that they were able to deliver such an entertaining production with barely a hiccup is a testament to the abilities of the MCT team of McCarton and Marks.
Bravo to everyone invloved.