There could be snow in August before a group of mischievous kids get straightened out, but Pen High Arts Media Entertainment actress Rebecca Willson has something to say about it.
Penticton will get to find out if she can transform those kids when Grades 9 to 12 students from PHAME perform their latest production, Nanny McPhee, at the Cleland Theatre next week. Willson who plays the title role of Nanny McPhee, is returning after the show didn’t go ahead last year.
“I think the kids in the audience are going to love it and laugh a lot at my character because I have these two suits that make me look like a balloon,” said Willson.
Unfortunate incidents stalled the production last year, then the teacher strike brought Nanny McPhee to a grinding halt. Willson was one of two of last year’s Grade 12 graduates that were able to return to continue with the production — the other being Marissa Moss who will be performing the role of Evangeline. They will bring experience to the group, as some of the only actors to have performed in the Cleland before.
“We have done everything in the drama room at the school so we are really familiar with it, at the Cleland it will be different. You are not just on the floor that we use for other acting games and practising. It is a real stage with curtains, a backstage and bright lights,” said Willson.
Drama Arts teacher Megan Rutherford said the loss of the graduating students and the addition of 40 new roles posed a challenge for her when they decided to resurrect the production. Nanny McPhee was suggested by the students last year and Rutherford believes it will be a huge success.
“It is a stage adaptation I wrote from the screenplay which has a fabulous core of actors for the kids as role models,” said Rutherford. “I watched Nanny McPhee as it was recommended by a number of kids in the production company because it is a really fun show but with some good messages for younger audiences and lessons that could appeal to adults as well.”
The company already faced a deficit coming into this year, having not put on a production last year, but raised funds through the Cryptville production at Halloween to help pay some of the bills. It is why PHAME is proud they can keep their ticket prices stuck at $10, allowing them to expose a wider group to theatre at a reasonable price. This includes elementary students, but Nanny McPhee’s two-tiered humour will make the production enjoyable for all-ages promised Rutherford.
“The adults are going to be laughing and probably will get a bigger kick than the kids. For us the whole approach was that the sets are so colourful and the costuming is colourful that it is just eye-candy. The opening with the turn of the century London park scene, the kids will just be leaning forward in their chairs. If they came to the show three times in a row they will see something new and we love to do that. The park extends right off the Cleland stage right down to the concrete floor and to the seats so there is somebody selling popcorn going past you. As well, the wedding scene is just hilarious and the little kids especially are going to levitate when the icing starts flying,” she said.
PHAME also has lots of surprises in store for audiences, including a special inserted scene that was pre-filmed as it was impossible for them to re-create on stage. Rutherford said PHAME is lucky because, to her knowledge, they are one of the only high school’s that runs with a big-screen backdrop. That affords a learning opportunity of switching from stage acting to film acting. It isn’t the only educational advantage, Cassie Kelley is improving her skills as the assistant seamstress for costuming on the production.
“I have made a couple of costumes and it has been pretty crazy and chaotic. I have had a lot of sewing to do since school started, but it has also been a fun and a cool experience,” said Kelley.
The Grade 9 student said her mom passed along her hobby of sewing to her when she was younger and she has been hooked ever since. Now she gets to work with Deb Dancey, a professional seamstress working with the production, and learn some new things.
“I would like to work for television shows or plays in the future making costumes so this is a good learning experience for me. It is going to be really cool to see the stuff I made up on stage,” said Kelley.
PHAME’s production of Nanny McPhee will run from Nov. 28 to 30 at 10 a.m., afternoon matinees at 1 p.m. on Dec. 1 and 2 and evening shows at 7 p.m. from Nov. 28 to Dec. 1. All shows will take place at the Cleland Theatre with tickets priced at $10 and available at the door or at Pen High.