The spirit of Broadway past is coming to Williams Lake this year courtesy of the Maranatha Players’ rendition of Give My Regards to Broadway, a classic look at the heyday of Broadway musicals.
Based on the book of the same name by Shubert Fendrich and the music of George M. Cohan, Give My Regards to Broadway is a comedic musical about the struggles involved in bringing a musical on a shoestring budget to Broadway in the late 1930s. The Maranatha Players’ director, Becky Strickland, said that this play marks their 19th season since the program began close to two decades ago.
The story follows a producer, director and pianist who all want to put a show on without the money to do it and go looking for a star to fill seats and their coffers. When that goes awry, however, the mob is soon sniffing around the theatre for unknown reasons as the theatre group desperately tries to figure out how to make this show happen.
A big part of why she selected this musical, Strickland said, is because of the music of the production, which was all written and produced back in the 1940s. This combined with the fact they’re doing a play within a play was something she thought would provide a nice challenge for her students.
This year Strickland has cast, for her, a smaller group than usual with 18 students filling out the various roles. One consideration she had was ensuring the play she selected had two strong male leads for two of her Grade 12 students who are graduating this year. She conducted her casting in the first week of September and they have since been practising for three to four days a week for two to three hours every day. Students range in age from Grade 8 to Grade 12, or ages 13 to 18.
“One of the things I like the best about working with kids is that they do become like a family backstage and they really support one another. You see my older kids mentor a lot of my younger kids and it’s just how theatre works,” Strickland said.
Over the last few months but especially recently she’s noticed some of the actors are really starting to click together on stage. Watching how far they’ve come to make intimate relationships believable on stage is one of the things Strickland likes the most about putting these plays on.
One of the greatest challenges of the production thus far has been the choreography, as Strickland had pushed her actors to do more than they usually would.
Another challenge was helping her actors develop both their main characters and their in-play characters. It adds a fun dimension to the overall production, Strickland said, especially as the play within a play is set in the First World War.
One of the play’s leads, Dick the director, is brought to life by Grade 12 student Tian Walker who has been doing drama with Strickland since Grade 4. She said he’s fantastic at doing voices and bringing physicality to his characters with a strong steady performance.
Daniel Daugherty meanwhile plays Eddie and is Strickland’s other Grade 12 student who has also been with her since he was in Grade 4. Strickland said it’s been cool to watch to actors who have come up and grown up together perform on stage as there is a nice natural camaraderie between Daugherty ’s realist and Walker’s dreamer.
Meanwhile, Evelyn Greig stars as Mary, a young aspiring actress who happens to arrive at the theatre at just the right time.
Greig has an incredible singing voice combined with a talent for embodying a character’s presence on stage and making it her own.
Skyla Zaworski meanwhile plays Trixie, the girlfriend of a mobster on the run known as Legs, a ditzy showgirl who doesn’t always get what’s going on. Zaworski, Strickland said, is more new to acting but has really shown a willingness to embrace whatever role Strickland gives her.
She hopes that audiences leave Give My Regards to Broadway with a strong feeling of nostalgia for the music and upbeat positivity of the 30s.
“That would be the biggest message that there was hope then and that we should still have hope during trouble today,” Strickland said.
Give My Regards to Broadway is on stage at Maranatha Christian School from Dec. 5 to Dec. 7 and Dec. 12 to Dec. 13 at 7 p.m. and Dec. 14 at 1 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Tickets are $10 for students and seniors and $12 for adults, available at The Open Book and the door with all proceeds going back to supporting the self-sufficient drama program.
Strickland encourages the entire community to come out, have some fun and support the kids.