Young stars ready to shine
The Lighthouse Festival Theatre's Young Company will present Beauty and the Beast from Aug. 16-19. Cast members Maggie Baker, 11, Quinn Wheldon, 13, and Justine Vervaeke, 15, rehearse at St. Paul's Parish Hall in Port Dover. JACOB ROBINSON/Simcoe Reformer
For 16 years, Marcus Lundgren has brought fairy tales and classic stories to life as director of the Lighthouse Festival Theatre's Young Company.
Each summer, Lundgren along with a handful of qualified instructors take a group of Norfolk youngsters and prepare them for the bright lights of the Port Dover stage.
That's becoming a little more difficult as the group gets further removed from the classic scripts Lundgren often selects.
“For the most part the kids have a pretty good idea of the story, but it's harder to get them caring about the classic stories when there's so much new stuff coming out that they think is more important,” he explained.
“But, when I get the cast here, they get really excited to tell the story that we get to tell.”
This year the group of 18 – half returnees, half newcomers to the company – will showcase Sleeping Beauty. In the lead-up to the show - rehearsals last three weeks - Lundgren and his staff ensure each member of the show gets their chance to shine.
“That's why I call it the 'Young Company' ... they really get the sense of being a company, working together and understanding that not everybody can be the main character, but everybody is going to be a main part of the production,” he added.
“Some kids love being a part of it but don't want to be a big focal point so we really find a way to make everybody succeed.”
Taking to the stage Aug. 16-19 will be extra special for 13-year-old newcomer Quinn Wheldon and her family given their past affiliation with the program.
“My grandma has been taking me to the shows for about five years,” said the Walsh native. “I've always wanted to go in it because they looked really cool.”
Any initial nervousness or reluctance within the group “was gone in about 10 minutes” on the first day of rehearsals, Lundgren said.
To that end, Maggie Baker of Simcoe – an 11-year-old newcomer - hopes the audience can sense the roster's rapidly growing camaraderie.
“We're all working together on it, we all like each other and we're all supportive of each other,” she said. “I just hope people leave with good feelings about Lighthouse and they want to audition so more people come and show their talents.”
Performing on the LFT stage has become a yearly tradition for Justine Vervaeke, who was cast as Belle in the 2015 production of Beauty and the Beast. Now in her fifth year with the company, the 15-year-old Holy Trinity student focuses on more than just her individuals lines
“I think all the returnees do take certain leadership roles,” said Vervaeke, cast as Maleficent in the 2017 version of the show. “We need to be able to connect with the newer ones so that we can form a family and this family can shine throughout the show.”
Ticket prices, showtimes and more information on the company can be found at lighthousetheatre.com.