New West Theatre is clowning around for kids with Munsch-O-Rama, which runs in the Sterndale Bennett Theatre, Dec. 26-Jan. 4.
This year’s production is particularly special as it features a cast of University of Lethbridge graduates including Andrew Merrigan, Camille Pavlenko and Kelly Malcolm, who perform an array of characters in five Robert Munsch stories.
They will be performing “The Paper Bag Princess,” “50 Below Zero,” “Something Good,” “Thomas’ Snowsuit” and “Pigs.”
They have contemporized the stories a little bit by adding modern gadgets and terminology like cellphones and references to hashtags and tweets.
“That’s the gift of having a playwright (Jeremy Mason),” said director Jacqueline Russell, returning this year to direct her second New West Munsch production.
“We have a great cast who are already great improvisers and have a great comedic background,” Russell said.
“When we rehearsed, we improvised and we wanted to find more jokes that adults would be able to connect to,” she continued.
“It’s much like a Pixar film. It’s still Robert Munsch’s words and stories but we put our own twist on it,” she explained.
“And for ‘50 Below Zero’ we have some interesting Lethbridge references in it,” she laughed.
The set is a little more elaborate than usual with a variety of colourful movable pieces.
“We are very fortunate to have Julie Wasilewski for the set. And she went to the University of Lethbridge as well,” she said.
They tie the five stories together with an Olympic theme.
“The concept of the show is an Olympic type event — the Munsch-O-Rama Challenge.
“They want to set a world record for performing as many Munsch stories in an hour.
“For our play it is five stories,” she said, adding she would have to look up a statistic for the actual world record.
“So in between we have scenes of them stretching, training and intrigue and dirty competition,” she continued.
She is enjoying being back with New West Theatre this season.
“It’s been wonderful. Last year we did ‘Peg and the Yeti’ which is one of Munsch’s lesser-known stories.
This year the stories are better known so people will know them, but we’re bringing our own interpretation of them,” she said.
Kelly Malcolm is excited to be back in Lethbridge for this show. She helped create a well-received clown play with fellow U of L students Emma Sinclair and Kathryn Smith — “The Tighty Whities Present Death,” featuring her clown Pistachio which won the Playgoers of Lethbridge One Act Play competition in April.
She brings some of her clown to the many characters she plays in Munsch-O-Rama.
“We’re all playing about 10 characters in the plays,” she said.
“My favourite is playing with the dragon puppet (in ‘The Paper Bag Princess’) but they all have their own personalities which make them unique as well,” she said.
“I also get to wear a really ugly snowsuit in ‘Thomas’ Snowsuit’ which is comedy gold,” she chuckled. There is a lot of improvisation and action on stage.
“It’s nice to bring that aspect of clowning to another production.”
She had a bit part in New West Theatre’s 2012 production of “The Kitchen Witches,” in which she played a camera operator, but this is her first theatre for young peoples performance with New West.
“It is nice to just be an actor in a production,” she said.
She is excited about getting the production in front of an audience.
“I hope we get a great audience. They are the missing piece. I am really interested to see the kids in the audience. They will know the stories and they will tell you if it is good,” she said.
She is also excited to be back in Lethbridge.
“I went to the U of L, so Lethbridge is like my second home,” said the Calgary-based actress.
“So I wasn’t going to give up an opportunity like this,” she said.
Munsch-O-Rama runs Dec. 26-Jan. 4 at 1 and 3:30 p.m. each day plus at 7 p.m. Jan. 3. in the Sterndale Bennett Theatre.