By Pippa Ingram
Special to The Record
Now in its 47th year of operation, Comox Valley Youth Music Centre has once again scooped the talent pool when it comes to the directorial team for this year’s Musical Theatre Program.
Lori Mazey, Lindsay Sterk and Shannon Tyrell comprise the trio of highly talented and creative instructors who have come together for this summer’s intensive program, to create the full-length comic pastiche musical Thoroughly Modern Millie.
Small-town girl meets NY
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.
CYMC’s Musical Theatre students are a vibrant group of young people who will come together and work nonstop to prepare the full-length musical. Their camp experience starts with a set of rigorous auditions, similar to those experienced in the professional world. Their days will be spent from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day, getting the show on the way under the expert leadership of their directorial team and supported by a great production crew — the adults who show they too have the stamina to spend the long hours working alongside the students. The schedule is not one for the faint of heart.
Behind the scenes
Director Lori Mazey and co-director/choreographer Lindsay Sterk have worked together now for several years. The success they had with Les Miserables (student edition) in 2012 and Shrek, The Musical in 2013 attest to their teamwork.
The newcomer to the trio is Shannon Tyrrell, who hails from Shawnigan Lake. Her position as director of music at Shawnigan Lake School is a simple title for her enormous array of skills that include performing, competing, touring, song-writing, recording, conducting, directing, teaching, and accompanying as well as teaching three choirs, music directing a major musical each year, and offering private piano and voice lessons.
Tyrrell is delighted to join the team as musical director for Thoroughly Modern Millie.
“This is my first time music directing at CYMC, although I have directed many shows at Shawnigan,” said Tyrrell. “Thoroughly Modern Millie is one of my favourite shows. I directed it some years ago at Shawnigan, and am thrilled to be music directing it again. It is very cleverly written with many lead roles. All are featured almost equally which is rare in a musical. The show has catchy music with a real ’20s feel and the storyline is interesting, funny, and unpredictable.”
Tyrrell knows CYMC
Tyrrell is not a complete “newbie” to CYMC however. She attended sessions as a student of classical piano, but never as a musical theatre student, although the genre is very much an interest for her.
“My favourite aspect of any musical theatre program is the energy and enthusiasm that comes with it,” she said. “There is never a dull moment, and I never ever feel it’s a ‘slog’. There is a constant change-up in the process because the cast has to work on three distinct areas of skill development — acting, singing, and dancing.
“Once they have those three nailed down separately, they have to put them all together. Then you throw them in costumes, make-up, and wigs, and put a set behind them. The energy level rises with each new challenge, and it’s so exciting to see a show go from zero to 100 in such a short amount of time. One of the strengths I feel I bring to the program is that I approach the musical theatre style with great excitement and passion, but I am grounded in the rigour and tradition of classical training.”
Time the biggest challenge
Can the talented trio put it all together in such a short time?
Tyrrell has every confidence it can be done! She reflects the team spirit when she says they are willing “to do whatever it takes to make sure these students feel prepared to go on stage and that they are proud of what they have accomplished. They do it year after year, so we know it can be done!”
With Mazey, Sterk and Tyrrell at the helm, local and visiting audiences can safely expect great performances from all onstage in Thoroughly Modern Millie.
Sponsorship from local radio station GOAT 98.9 FM also supports CYMC Musical Theatre program as it once again delights audiences with the energy and high spirits of its youthful performers.
Show dates for the CYMC production are July 16, 17, 18, and 19 at 7:30 p.m. 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). You won’t want to miss it!