Ever wondered what the key to a successful theatre company is? One word: Reinvention.
For 40 years now, the Four Seasons Musical Theatre company has been delighting its audiences with its colourful productions. Established in the 1970’s as a Gilbert and Sullivan troupe, the focus has since shifted many times; sometimes to serious musical theatre, at others to purely children’s theatre, and now, toward presenting adult- and kids-pleasing hits like the upcoming extravaganza Shrek: The Musical.
Located on the West Shore since 1995, Four Seasons has had the tenacity to continue to engage its audiences with exciting shows, while at the same time offering a safe and affirming place for up-and-coming theatre kids to explore the craft and enjoy the opportunity to get their feet wet in real productions.
Terry Roswell, president of the board of directors for Four Seasons, believes strongly in the value of musical theatre to both audiences and performers.
“Musical theatre is life-affirming, teaches teamwork and builds self-confidence in the kids in our shows – even the seasoned adults,” he says. “Kids and adults in the audience light up when seeing a favourite story come to life before them. It is truly magical. There is the immediacy that one cannot experience through sitting watching a screen.”
One of the perks of the company being located in the West Shore is the region’s strong family and community focus, Roswell says, admitting that he moved here for precisely those reasons. “There are lots of families on the West Shore with kids of all ages, with many more moving here every year. It feels like a happening place to be.”
When it comes to attracting Victoria audiences, Roswell laments the mindset of many theatre goers, who would rather drive downtown and search for parking than drive 15 minutes to the West Shore, where parking is a breeze. “We have to get away from the silo mindset.”
The company has many accomplishments: they have supported Victoria playwrights by producing locally-written shows, and many alumni have gone on to successful careers on stage, film and beyond. But the biggest highlight, in Roswell’s opinion, is the on-going enrichment of the community and its members through theatre.
“Every show is a highlight in my opinion. Seeing every single audience get to their feet at the end of our last show (The Secret Garden) was a personal highlight for me. And bringing Shrek: The Musical to our audiences in May is another highlight. The fact that there are 60 to 80 people who come together as a team to put on a show is a high point in itself.”
Roswell looks forward to the possibility of the company moving from its current residence at the Isabelle Reader Theatre into a new venue, where it would have room to increase the orchestra and allow for even more elaborate sets.
“We do well now and our shows are magic and are always getting better, but we have the talent and ability to go beyond,” he says. “For a long time now, many audience members have been telling us that the quality of our venue no longer matches the quality of our shows. And they are right. My dream is a dedicated community arts centre in the West Shore. There has been too much talking about it for too many years.”
Shrek: The Musical runs May 22 to 31 at the Isabelle Reader Theatre, 1026 Goldstream Ave. Four Seasons will perform a short vignette during the West Shore Arts Council’s Arts Mosaic/AGM on Sunday, April 26 at 2 p.m. at the Church of the Advent in Colwood.
Shannon Carmen is a member of the West Shore Arts Council.