CMYC: Great shows begin with great casting

Expectations high for Thoroughly Modern Millie after superb audition sessions

Lynn Hodge

Special to the Record

Audition (from the World Dictionary): a test at which a performer or musician is asked to demonstrate his/her ability for a particular role.

Now imagine 36 youth, some for their third year in a row, waiting all year for the opportunity to spend two 12-hour days participating in auditions for a summer show.

And imagine three directors listening, watching, discussing and conferring over these two days to make the best decision for each and every one of these talented youth. This is how summer began at the Comox Valley Youth Music Centre’s Musical Theatre program.

Long process

Director Lori Mazey describes the process as long and intense but great.

She is a believer in the philosophy that for directors, casting is 80 per cent of the job. Getting it right for every single role, no matter how big or small, lightens the work load immensely. Spending two full days on auditions also gives each participant a chance to feel as though they have really been given a fair shot.

Choreographer Lindsay Sterk looks for actors and dancers who are doing their best to learn choreography quickly, who ask intelligent questions, and who put their heart and soul into their performances. Being able to ‘sell’ the character to the audience is more important than perfection.

As a first time CYMC musical director, Shannon Tyrell said it was wonderful to be the unbiased third ear, and was amazed at how well prepared the kids came. She believed it was a very professional process; these youth are the best from where they’ve come and were ready from day one.

Graeme Linton, an 18-year-old, second-year CYMC participant from Terrace, B.C., says you audition on your strengths today and for their potential for the show.

“I did what I could and trusted they would know best.”

Maia Macpherson is 16 and flew all the way from Dubai to be part of CYMC. She felt the auditions were unusually welcoming and is happy where she ended up.

Late-night announcement

Everyone is asked to come prepared with a song and monologue, and throughout the two days, continual call-backs and opportunities to dance, sing and act are interspersed with various workshops (yoga, improv, stage combat). The cast list was announced at 1 a.m. the morning of day three. Everyone was excited and positive about the whole learning experience and ready to jump into the rehearsal process at 9 a.m. that morning.

As Mazey summed up, “How much unbelievable talent we had in the room. We found ourselves in a position of not choosing who was good enough, but who would be the best fit overall.”

Opening July 16 and running for five shows, Thoroughly Modern Millie is CYMC’s musical production at the Sid Williams Theatre. It tells of a small-town girl, Millie Dillmount, who comes to New York City to marry for money instead of love – a thoroughly modern aim in 1922, when women were just entering the workforce. Millie soon takes delight in the flapper lifestyle, but problems arise when she checks into a hotel owned by the leader of a white slavery ring in China. Audiences can enjoy the ’20s era via a show filled with hilarity, terrific dancing and infectious music.

Show dates for Thoroughly Modern Millie are July 16, 17, 18, and 19 at 7:30 and Saturday matinee on July 19 at 2 p.m. Tickets are on sale at Sid Williams Theatre Box Office ($23 for matinee and $25 for evening performances). Don’t miss it!


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