An instant stage made from simple structures was put up in the TRE gymnasium for a performance of Jack and the Beanstalk at 9:30 am on January 14th. Approximately 160 students from TRE, along with teachers and parents were invited to attend this show put on by the Alberta Opera Touring Association. They came to Tumbler Ridge following a performance in Dawson Creek, courtesy of school programming through Artstarts.
The writer/director/actor at the helm was Garner Butler who has taken the lead in this production company, following in the footsteps of his own father, Darryl Butler, who founded the opera-theatre company in 1984.
Based out of Edmonton, the performance group travels in a van with all of their props and costumes and drive cross-country performing for schools. Originally the script takes about 2 months to write and fine-tune. The rehearsal process is a grinding 2 weeks of 8 hour days, 6 days a week. The troupe performs the same show nearly 300 times within the year. This year, following Jack and the beanstalk, the troupe will be working on Rapunzel and then Puss ?n Boots. That announcement drew an audible exclamation from the young audience, many whom immediately identified the popular character from Shrek 2.
As a warm-up before performing exclusively to children audiences through school programming, the company does have a theatre run, generally in October, before heading out on the road. The group reports that they have been as far North as Dawson Creek, as far East as Edmonton and as far West as Victoria. Their next step would be to travel possibly to the US, with Cincinnati in their scope. This would mean they would be part of International Performing Arts For Youth (IPAY), which showcases touring children?s festivals all around the world.
Jack and the Beanstalk was a 55-minute production, written and directed by Garner Butler. It jumped back and forth between spoken story and original songs. Butler wrote the song lyrics with the original compositions written by Jeff Unger. Together they have done 11 shows over 11 years. The cast for this show consisted of 4 actors, although cast numbers are different for each new production. The cast list is as follows; the Giant ? Andrew MacDonald-Smith; Jack ? Matt Alden; Jack?s Mother/Cassandra the Fairy; Janel Snider; the Bean Man ? Garner Butler; Piano Accompaniment ? Josh Mellot. As an interactive and efficient bonus, 16 lucky children were chosen to be stagehands and actors in brief parts throughout the play.
Just before the end, the audience was asked to join in song and then the group came out for their casting call and answered questions from the kids. Many asked how certain effects were done and the troupe willingly revealed all the magical tricks. Especially interesting was the enormous Giant, who stood 9 feet tall when balanced on drywaller?s stilts inside his costume. The children seemed to really love the performance and hoped they would come back again. This was an excellent show for the kids of Tumbler Ridge to see. Applause goes out to the Alberta Opera Touring Company for a job well done.