Seeing green

Big Sky Broadway announces its upcoming performance— “Shrek the Musical”

There are, presumably, lots of secrets in Big Sky as in any small town. But one well-kept secret keeps local kids guessing all winter long: The title of the Big Sky Broadway musical that will be performed in June. And now that secret has been revealed: The 2018 musical, to be performed June 22-23 at the Warren Miller Performing Arts Center will be….SHREK!

     This modern Dreamworks musical, based on a children’s book by William Steig, is well-known to kids who’ve never come close to Broadway due to the original animated movie franchise. The musical, like the series, follows the romantic entanglement of an ogre, a princess with a secret, and a very short villain, as well as a sidekick donkey. They are joined by a huge chorus of storybook characters, dancers and a number of other human members of this fictional kingdom.     

     “It’s a great show for our large cast,” said Rowley, with lots of individual parts and ways for kids with different talents to shine. It is also modern enough that the kids know it and can relate to it. And it is based on a children’s story. These are all qualities we look for as we choose the show.”

     The secretive process of revealing the title of the annual musical is by design and by tradition. 

     “Originally, we kept the name of the show a secret so that all the kids could find out at the same time and have an even playing field in terms of preparing for their auditions,” said Director John Zirkle. “It was also a good incentive to get kids to attend our fundraiser, ‘Big Sky’s Got Talent.’” 

     Producer Barbara Rowley adds one other critical reason: “I think the kids just really like being able to guess. And speculate. It’s just fun.”

     Big Sky Broadway has come a long way since the days, nine years ago, when the first summer show was a few Broadway songs performed by a few kids with minimal costuming in the Talus Room of Big Sky Resort.

     Today, the company annually produces two full-scale musical productions, in the world-class WMPAC, one for high school actors and one for elementary and middle schoolers. The camp fills up months in advance with a waiting list for the siblings and young campers hoping for a spot. This year, Big Sky Broadway had its highest level of interest ever, with more than 50 kids registering. 

     Rowley credits the success of Big Sky Broadway to several factors. First and foremost, she cites the consistent, professional staff of working artists, half of whom helped found the enterprise. In addition to Zirkle, there’s Music Director Klaudia Kosiak, Choreographer Jennifer Waters and Vocal Director Sarah Mitchell.  

     “Our staff has high expectations and the excellent teaching skills that help our cast reach these goals,” said Rowley.

     Secondly, there’s the vital support of local foundations, especially the Spanish Peaks Community Foundation, which once again is a title sponsor for the summer show. It provides the funding necessary to keep the enterprise stable.  

     “The costs of putting on a show like this can simply not be borne by ticket sales or tuition. We are so grateful to SPCF and our other donors,” said Rowley.

     Finally, there is the underlying philosophy of the program. Rowley explained, “We are inclusive in our pricing structure and approach as well as the fact that we cast every child brave and excited enough to try out. We also value every part equally—and the kids really understand that.”

     Another important element to Rowley, whose background is in summer camps and family and parenting journalism, is the program’s dual emphasis on professionalism and fun.  

     “I love seeing how much the kids love being crazy and having fun—our onstage dance parties are a great example—as well as how equally seriously they take on the challenge of learning their parts and performing them well,” Rowley said. “They get that one of the most fun things in life is to learn something new and to do it really, really well.”  

                                                                                    —Big Sky Broadway


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