Youth theatre company gears up for Christmas show

PACE musical theatre group to feature a cornucopia of talent in upcoming show

The Grinch

Santa Claus is coming to town in the first week of December, and he’s bringing a sleigh full of friends with him.

For its 30th annual Christmas show, the students from the PACE musical theatre group at the WestShore Learning Centre will be bringing the Grinch, Buddy the Elf, Frosty and the characters of Disney’s Frozen to life on stage. And rumour has it they’ve managed to get the real Santa Claus to drop in as well.

More than 250 students from kindergarten to Grade 12 have been steadfastly rehearsing with professional choreographers and musical directors to deliver a seamless show of skits, classic carols and sing-a-longs, with youngest and oldest working side-by-side.

PACE, the “program for academic and creative enrichment,” is open to students throughout the West Shore and Victoria. It helps students develop on-stage skills such as singing, acting and dancing, and through those fosters self-confidence and self esteem.

The program has eschewed the traditional school play format in favour of shows that offer wider opportunities for the students.

“Regular musical theatre shows have a male lead, a female lead, usually two supporting on either side, and then a chorus. It doesn’t offer a lot of opportunities for a lot of kids,” says artistic director Sandy Webster-Worthy.

“I build the shows around the kids I’ve got, around the talent, as opposed to making the kids fit the role. It’s a lot harder to put together, but in the end it makes the kids shine.”

Belmont students Elijah Driver and Emily Hanson, both 17, have been in the program since kindergarten, and both say they’ve benefited from the experience.

“I can get up in front of people now and speak,” says Driver.

Hanson has had similar experience. “And you get to meet friends you might not have met otherwise,” she adds.

The wide range of ages in the theatre group offers a unique environment as well, adds Webster-Worthy. “It’s purposely family-grouped so that the younger kids have the opportunity to watch and learn from the older kids.”

“I remember being in kindergarten, and I remember each of the Grade 12’s faces, and I look at the kindergarteners now and think it could be my face that they remember,” says Driver.

Shows run from Dec. 3 to 5 at 7 p.m., and Dec. 6 at 2 and 6 p.m. at 1026 Goldstream Ave. Tickets are available at WestShore Learning Centre, 814 Goldstream Ave. For more information, call the Centre at 250-391-9002.

acowan@goldstreamgazette.com