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Entertainment for the younger set

Posted on December 27, 2018 by Dave Mabell

With more than 50 books off the press, Robert Munsch has become Canada’s top-selling author.
For years he’s written for our youngest readers. And not surprisingly, his stories have become the starting point for successful shows for young audiences.
They’re highly effective in connecting with children, as southern Albertans have seen. So New West Theatre has revived “Munsch-o-Rama” for a holiday run, Dec. 26 to Jan. 5 at Casa.
Calgary playwright and producer Jeremy Mason, who based his script on a series of Munsch books, says the stories’ appeal lies in their connection with everyday events in a child’s life.
“A kid is pretty much the star” in each Munsch story. And each is a little larger than life.
“Everything is hyper and energetic,” Mason says. “It’s the kids’ perspective of the world.”
And in the end, the young heroine or hero works it out. In the “Paper Bag Princess,” she tricks the dragon, saves the day — and the prince. In another, it’s the children who safeguard their sleepwalking father, who’d be in dire danger if he stepped outside in “50 Below Zero.”
For Mason — who pulled several Munsch stories together for a New West run in 2013 — it’s the first time he’s actually directed his show.
“This has been a new experience,” he says.
And it’s become an opportunity to work with a number of Calgary-based performers — drama graduates from the University of Lethbridge — who’ve been seen in a number of New West, community and U of L shows in recent years.
Kelly Malcolm was featured in New West’s version of “Hansel and Gretel” recently, while Camille Pavlenko joined the Lethbridge Shakespeare Performance Society cast for “Much Ado about Nothing” and “Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
Ryan Reese has been part of New West’s “Luke’s Lunchbox,” “Three Little Pigs,” “Hansel and Gretel” and more, as well as various U of L productions.
“Lethbridge has become my second home, really,” he says.
Along with the others, he’s looking forward to a two-week tour of smaller communities after the Lethbridge run. About 15 student performances are lined up in January, he says — some them booked to fill an entire gym.
As a professional company, explains artistic director Sharon Peat, New West is able to earn grants that allow it to introduce young-audience theatre right across the region, in communities where it wouldn’t be otherwise available.
But it’s because of the university’s well-respected drama program that post-secondary students come here and get involved, she maintains.
“The U of L offers a really great theatre arts program,” with graduates finding success across the country.
“Munsch-o-Rama” opens on Boxing Day at Casa and continues through Saturday, then Dec. 31 to 5 — all at 1 p.m.
Tickets are available at both Ticket Centre locations.

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