Spencer Bricknell, Darian Zeinstra, Danel Halliwell and Kenan Blanchard pose in costumes from Hamilton, one of many Broadway shows drawn upon for the PACE Musical Theatre production, It’s a Musical. The eight-show run opens Friday (April 21) at the Isabelle Reader Theatre. Photo by Daryl Stanley

PACE spring musical in Langford draws from newer Broadway shows

It’s a Musical opens eight-show run Friday at Isabelle Reader Theatre

PACE Musical Theatre has updated the repertoire for its spring 2017 show, appropriately named, It’s a Musical.

Compositions from movie musicals and hit Broadway shows from the past 10 to 12 years have been packed into one revue, to be performed by roughly 300 actors in grades K to 12 for eight shows at the Isabelle Reader Theatre starting tomorrow (April 21).

“The biggest challenge was Hamilton,” PACE artistic director Sandra Webster-Worthy said, referring to the record-setting historical musical that hit Broadway in 2015. “It’s hip-hop rap and very complex musically, but the kids have embraced it and done a wonderful job.”

The winner of 11 Tony Awards in 2016 is just one show that has provided some teachable moments for Webster-Worthy, who also acts as hands-on director for each show staged by this Sooke School District theatre program.

It’s a Musical borrows songs from the acclaimed new Canadian musical Come From Away, which tells of how the people of Gander, NL opened their homes and their hearts to more than 6,000 passengers and crew on 39 commercial jetliners diverted there during 9/11.

“The music is tremendous, and people have to keep in mind that (few) of the kids in the show were born when it occurred,” Webster-Worthy said. “This is a real teaching opportunity as to what actually happened that day.”

The PACE production, which has given the young performers a taste of Newfoundland culture, is backdropped during these numbers by live-action video from the scene.

Other shows which provide musical scenes for the Langford production include Something Rotten – Webster-Worthy describes it as a combination of Spamalot meets Shakespeare, great for the Monty Python fans in the crowd – as well as Jersey Boys and the more recent La La Land and Trolls.

“It’s been a very challenging show,” she said. “We did not pick easy music, but it is current and topical and we’ve covered a lot of ground.”

PACE is designed to play to the children’s talents, that is, the four and five year olds learn age appropriate songs and choreography. That said, Webster-Worthy and her crew try to give them a challenge to reach for each time out. The veterans among the cast – a handful of Grade 12 students have been with PACE since kindergarten – have been exposed a huge cross-section of music and styles in that time.

Many graduates of PACE go on to bigger and better things, like Webster-Worthy’s son, Calum Worthy. The former cast member of The Disney Channel’s Austin and Alley comedy series, now 26, has built an impressive screen resume that includes numerous movie and TV credits.

As per his annual tradition, Calum is flying from his home in Los Angeles on Friday to be part of the PACE spring musical this weekend. He’ll emcee the show and be on hand for a meet and greet to sign autographs and be in photos at the theatre for 30 minutes before each performance.

It’s a Musical performances go at 7 p.m. April 21, 22, 27, 28 and 29, while 2 p.m. matinees happen April 22, 23 and 29. Tickets are $12 for adults and $10 for students and seniors, available at Westshore Centre for Learning, 2139 Sooke Rd., or by reservation at 250-391-9002. All performances are at the Isabelle Reader Theatre, 1026 Goldstream Ave.

editor@goldstreamgazette.com