Paris Younger and Mark Hills joke that they’re considered “lifers” in the ranks of the PACE Musical Theatre Company.
Younger got into this extra-curricular SD62 company in Grade 3, while Hill began performing in Kindergarten.
Now both in Grade 12 at Belmont secondary, the two good friends will perform a multitude of roles in what could be their final show with the company, Cinemusic! The all-ages production celebrates favourite songs from films ranging from The Muppet Movie to Disney’s Teen Beach Movie and many more.
Asked what they’re most looking forward to about their last show, they’ve both got their favourites. “I like a lot of the Teen Beach stuff,” Hills says. “It’s hard work, it’s fast moving with a lot of fast dancing.”
Younger agrees that the choreography designed for this production takes things to the next level for many of the performers, the majority of which range in age from four to 18.
“I think my favourite set is the Moulin Rouge piece,” she says of a number in which she gets dolled up in feathers and lots of sparkles. “It’s a real different feel from some of the (more children-oriented) characters we’re used to.”
Stretching the talents of the more than 300 performers is something longtime PACE director Sandra Webster-Worthy has done well for years, she adds.
“Sandy does a really good job of making sure everybody feels comfortable on stage.”
PACE, or Program for Creative and Creative Enrichment, also sees the odd adults join the cast of each production, as much to ensure things go smoothly and helping keep young actors on track. Gary Wilkinson, who plays a dinosaur in a Jurassic Park number in Cinemusic!, is one such performer. He’s had children go through PACE and now has grandkids enrolled, which is part of what keepds him involved, he says.
Webster-Worthy’s son, Calum Worthy, perhaps PACE’s most celebrated almunus, is hosting the first week of shows at the Isabelle Reader Theatre. Like many former members, he says he loves coming back home and checking in with young people he’s seen grow up on stage.
“It’s very fun to see some of the alumni come back to support the cast,” he says. “Seeing some people that I knew 10 years ago who are now graduating, it’s very inspiring to see them perform.”
Worthy says most of the PACE grads he knows benefitted greatly from the program.
“Whether they decided to continue performing or not, it really shaped who they were. They had to be on stage every day and at rehearsals every Sunday. They were lucky to have that opportunity to build those habits.”
Webster Worthy says audiences will be surprised, as always, at the talent level of the young performers.
“I think they’re going to be surprised, and amazed at the energy and the pacing and the quality – the kids are killing these numbers,” she says. “I think we have a really great balance.”
This week’s shows see 7 p.m. performances scheduled for Thursday, Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. matinees set for Saturday and Sunday. Next week’s shows run Wednesday through Saturday at 7 p.m., with a matinee performance on Saturday April 23. Tickets are available at Westshore Learning Centre, 101-814 Goldstream Ave., or at the door. Or call 250-391-9002 to reserve.