UNBC Musical Productions: Meet The Executive

Tierney Watkinson | Team Member

As the performance dates for our main musical of the year loom closer, the Musical Productions Club on campus is working to make this show all that it possibly can be.

This is my fifth year with the club and every year, as we get into the final rehearsals before the show, tensions always become higher and the pressure is certainly felt by the club’s members as homework accumulates, the last few props need collecting, and the final details in dance numbers are ironed out. However, we always get it done. Sometimes sets go up during the final, precious, panicked hours before the first show, but they go up. And, when the time comes and we are gathered as a group backstage, waiting for the lights to dim and the crowd to go quiet in anticipation of the first few bars of music signalling the start of the show, it is impossible to deny feeling as though we are a part of something amazing. Meeting every Sunday afternoon since September has paid off. We are a team. We will all have a moment on stage. There will be applause.

In anticipation of our upcoming presentation of The New Mel Brooks Musical: Young Frankenstein, I would like to introduce you to the club’s official executive members. They are all extremely busy with final preparations for Young Frankenstein, so I opted to send them a questionnaire to fill out in their own time. Coffee dates are impossible these days and we need all of the time available to us on Sundays to simply rehearse scenes. On top of our weekend rehearsals, we have had weeknight practices nearly every evening for the past three weeks to get the dances and musical numbers just right.

First, our head gal: Veronica Church. Veronica is Co-President with Jasmine Eadie this year. She is a jack-of-all-trades where the club is concerned–besides being CoPresident, she is Co-Director, Producer, and Choreographer. On top of her executive duties, she is a chorus member in Young Frankenstein–where she performs her own tap solo–and will star as Draco Malfoy in A Very Potter Sequel (AVPS) in April. Taking on so many responsibilities may seem arduous, but “we always need more warm bodies in the chorus,” she says. This is her first year as a President, but Veronica has been a member of UNBC Musical Productions for four years. When I asked if she had previous theatre experience to UNBC’s club, Veronica wrote to me: “I was in kid productions of musicals with a theatre school in Vancouver. They cut out a lot of stuff but I loved it. I’d research the musical, try to get my hands on a copy… and just live and breath that character for a few months and move on to the next one.” Within the UNBC club, Veronica cites her favourite role as being Draco Malfoy in A Very Potter Musical (AVPM) last year. She has also played a Swamp Monster in The Nightmare Before Christmas, Christmas Eve in Avenue Q, and a Groom Ancestor in The Addams Family: A New Comedy Musical with the club. “I would love to play Marquis de Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson from Hamilton,” Veronica notes; “the tempo of his songs are outrageous! 6.3 words per second at his fastest!” Her favourite musical is surprisingly not Hamilton, but Legally Blonde. “Elle Woods for #POTUS.” Although many people, both club members and previous audience members, have expressed their wishes for the club to perform a Disney musical, Veronica laments that the rights to Disney productions are simply too expensive: “The rights alone are more than double what we paid for this year’s musical and let’s not even start on costumes and sets,” she says. As well, although we performed Addams Family at the PG Playhouse last year, it “cost about the same as the rights for a Disney Musical,” and our current stage, the cramped Canfor Theatre, could not support the scope of a Disney musical and simply “wouldn’t do it justice, it’s just too small.” Despite these limitations, Veronica says, “we’re constantly on the lookout for funny, new musicals for our university crowd”. As a current Undergraduate English/History student at UNBC, Veronica plans to return to the club next year. Although “homework more often than not has slipped to the wayside” as a result of fast-approaching show dates, she has few regrets. “The friends you make when you’re building sets until 3am or who meet up with you after rehearsal to work on dance steps are the friends that I know will always be in my corner. You can’t get that from a textbook.” When she has graduated and no longer with the club, Veronica plans to stay involved with theatre. “The theatre bug is like a drug, and I’m never quitting (no matter how often I throw my hands up in exasperation).” Her most memorable moment with the club, as of yet, was taking Avenue Q on the road to Quesnel two years ago. Above all, Veronica says, “Communication and teamwork are paramount, without them this show would never have gotten off the ground. Everyday I’m thankful for the solid team that I’m working with and that we’re all in this together.”

Next up is Jasmine Eadie, Co-President as well as Co-Choreographer this year. She is well into her second year with the club and will be playing Inga, “Dr Frankenstein’s bubbly Transylvanian lab assistant” in our main production. Last year, she starred in both showings of AVPM as Pansy Parkinson and Cho Chang alternatively and was the First Nations Ancestor in Addams Family. Before joining the club, Jasmine’s theatre experience came from Drama class in high school. “In grade 9 we performed a series of short plays but in grade 12 I was in the production The Somewhat True Tale of Robin Hood as a merry man. And in my later teens I did some beginner dance classes, but overall I was pretty new to all of this.” Having just finished her Bachelor of Science in Wildlife and Fisheries she isn’t sure of what her future holds, but she hopes to stick with the club next year if possible. Whether she is able to continue with the club or not, Jasmine intends to stick with theatre. “Theatre has always been a dream of mine that I have never been confident enough to try. I think I would like to continue doing theatre and maybe do some singing and dancing lessons to try and improve.” Like Veronica, Jasmine claims her favourite musical as Legally Blonde, saying “it’s what introduced me to musical theatre and holds a special place in my heart.” Her dream role would be Elle Woods but, she admits, “really any role in that show would be fine by me.” As for what shows she would like to see performed by the club in the future, Jasmine says the possibilities are endless and choosing is nearly impossible. Future performances aside she, too, has felt the pressures of the club, which is surprisingly time-intensive. “I drink lots of tea to try and preserve some sanity,” she says. Regardless, Jasmine values what she has learned through the club. She will always remember “how much we came together as a family, and how we all relied on each other to survive through the whole process and the more stressful times.” She continues, “Theatre is an experience that really brings you close to people, and provides you with many inside jokes. It was a dream to experience what being in a production in the Playhouse felt like.” Besides becoming familiar with the ins and outs of putting a show together, Jasmine writes, “I’ve learned so much.” Most importantly, “the people in this club have helped me learn my value and how to be there for each other as a family.”

Lluvia Lopez, another of the club’s family members, is this year’s official Treasurer. You will see her starring in the chorus alongside Veronica in addition to playing Iggy, the village idiot, in our Young Frankenstein production and the Trolley Lady in AVPS this spring. Lluvia joined the club the same year as Jasmine. She says she plans to limit her involvement next year, but usually finds herself drawn back in by “the wonderful community.” Lluvia had no experience in theatre before joining the club, but she made a name for herself starring as Severus Snape in last years’ rendition of AVPM and as the weepy Deceased Bride Ancestor in Addams Family. When asked about her dream role, she says “Rafiki would definitely by my dream role from my favourite musical The Lion King; but who doesn’t fantasize about being the main in every musical?” In regards to the future of the club, Lluvia mentions “I would really like to host a gender swapped revamp of Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog as a fundraiser for next year,” and lists Sweeney Todd and RENT as musicals she believes would be fun to perform. She dreams of one day being able to present shows like The Lion King and Hamilton. Currently, Lluvia says, she is “in the Environmental Studies program, with a focus in Natural Resource Management” at UNBC. She admits, in agreement with the other executive members, that “there are times when it does get difficult to juggle school, work, the musical, solo time and maintain a decent social life.” Even so, she continues, “performing in front of an audience and challenging your fears, like my stage fright, is so empowering. It makes it all worth it in the end.” If she can, she will remain involved with theatre after her university days are complete. In answer to my question about her favourite memories with the club, Lluvia writes, “The memories I have at the MP Club are infinite and it may interest you to know that I am smiling as I type this.” Being a part of UNBC Musical Productions has taught her, among other things, that “it takes a lot of patience and understanding when working with diverse individuals that have differing backgrounds when it comes to musical theatre. Also, musical theatre kids are almost always late. Almost always.”

Finally, Neil Brooks, who recently completed his Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Science, is this year’s Co-Director. He will also star as Bob the Astrologer and Mr. Hilltop in Young Frankenstein. Back in autumn, he starred yet again as Lord Voldemort in AVPM and will appear in the upcoming AVPS as well, this time as the even scarier villainous character Professor Umbridge. He has been with UNBC Musical Productions for six years but because he is now a school Alumni, rather than a student, Neil is not sure if he will be back next year. For now, he would like to see the club succeed from production to production; whatever his involvement, he wants the club to continue. Before joining the club, Neil was in the same boat as Lluvia–he had no experience in theatre, and remembers the first show, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, as being “just a group of friends that wanted to put on a musical and have fun.” In that first show, Neil played the part of Moist. He has since starred as a Dancing Demon and chorus member in Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Once More With Feeling, Dr. Finkelstein in The Nightmare Before Christmas, Mrs. Thistletwat as well as a singing box and chorus member in Avenue Q, and Grandma Addams in Addams Family. “My dream role would be Scar from Lion King,” Neil admits. In regards to the time demands of the club, Neil says “the musical is my free time, my time with friends, and my break time. Even though it is a lot of work, it is also a lot of fun.” Potentially, he will stay involved with theatre in the future. From being a part of the club, Neil says, he has learned how to deal with the challenges and stress involved with producing and acting in a musical. His favourite things about the group, he writes, are “Making memories, conquering fears, acquiring skills, learning leadership, implementing plans, and creating a community of friends that in time become family.”

As much as I would love to, I cannot possibly interview everyone involved in the group and cram them into this single piece. We have well over twenty cast members combined, this year, who play parts as actors, stage hands, piano players, lighting coordinators, etc. in some or all of our shows. Each member is integral to the life of the club and indeed to the presentation of the shows. A lot of what happens on stage would be impossible without the actors drawing from their own personalities to breathe life and, inevitably, hilarity into their characters through physical comedy and ad-libbing between their lines. They make the characters their own. The show itself would be impossible without a band or volunteers to run the sound systems, without lighting techs, without musical and dance direction. We share inside jokes, near-tears (and sometimes in-tears) moments, late-night set building, frustrations, friendships. And, of course, that magical moment backstage before before the first act begins, when a hush falls and we are waiting, breathless; when we forget our stagefright and we realize that everything we have worked for has come together into this moment.

The show dates for Young Frankenstein are March 16-18 and 23-25, with 7pm shows each of these days and an extra matinee on both Saturdays. Doors open at 6:30pm for the evening shows, and 12:30pm for the matinees. All shows will be presented in the Canfor Theatre at UNBC (room 6-213, just inside the main doors of the bus loop and next to Degrees Coffee). Tickets are on sale now in the Winter Garden on campus, and a select number of tickets will soon be available downtown at Books and Co. Tickets are 10$ for students (CNC included) and 15$ for the general public. Be sure to follow UNBC Musical Productions on Facebook for updates. If you invite 100 people to the group’s Young Frankenstein event on Facebook, be sure to take a screenshot, send it via private message to Veronica, and be entered in a draw to win two free tickets to any night of your choice!

Don’t forget: A Very Potter Sequel is set for April 7th in the Canfor. Tickets will be sold at the door. It is a onenight only show, so save the date!

As a final note, before we present our show to you: Thank you to all of our audience members throughout the years. Without your support, we would not be able to continue doing what we do.