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B.S. Productions rehearsing for Sundre performances

Musical show aims to provide opportunity for reflection, entertainment and unity
MVT BS Productions rehearsals
Under the direction and musical talent of Jamie Syer, on the piano, and Brian Bailey, out of frame, the adult cast of B.S. Productions' upcoming performance of All Together Now, which barring any further pandemic-related health restrictions is expected to proceed Nov. 12-14 at the Sundre Arts Centre, has for several weeks now been rehearsing outside the facility on Thursday evenings. Meanwhile, the children's portion of the cast has been gathering to get ready Saturday mornings. Simon Ducatel/MVP Staff

SUNDRE — A local theatre group hopes to proceed later in November with several shows that will offer the community not only an opportunity to reflect on the past year, but also to enjoy an evening of entertainment that brings people together during what has been a challenging time.

“We are working on a new production called All Together Now,” said Jamie Syer, who co-founded B.S. Productions alongside partner in crime Brian Bailey.

Created by an organization called Music Theatre International, which B.S. Productions rents its musical performances from, the show was developed specifically keeping in mind the collective experience people have endured as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Syer said.

“Given everything that’s happened over the last year and a half, these folks decided to figure out a way that small and larger musical theatre companies, could get something back on stage,” he explained.

What Music Theatre International in the end decided to do, was to make available a selection of about two dozen songs from Broadway musicals that individual theatre groups like B.S. Productions could choose from and narrow down to a final list of 15.

Subject to a few requirements — such as setting dates specifically within the timeframe between Nov. 12-15 — the songs were made available at no licensing cost to enable theatre groups to put on the show, he said.

“Whatever you put on, has to happen during those days,” he said on Thursday, Sept. 30. “Right now, I think they’ve got over 2,000 theatre companies all over the world that are producing this show. And we’re one of them.”

The selection of songs was not randomly picked musical numbers, but rather deliberately chosen with care to include a variety of themes relevant to what people have experienced.

For example, one number is about looking back at and reflecting upon the past year, while others are about community, love and support as well as some upbeat tunes that even though celebratory in nature still consider what makes a community tick and stick together, he said.   

“It’s going to be a very effecting show, if people listen to the words.”

Each theatre group can choose its own approach in delivering the show, he added.

“It’s not going to be a big stage show like Matilda, for obvious reasons,” he said. “We can’t have huge numbers on stage.”

Nevertheless, he said rehearsals are already well underway, with the adult members of the cast — all of whom are vaccinated — gathering Thursday evenings outside the Sundre Arts Centre while the children’s cast — about half of whom aren’t eligible for the vaccine — gets together Saturday mornings.

“We’ve got a fabulous cast. The first time the kids started to sing, it shook me up because they had learned all their songs even before they came. It was just fabulous to hear,” he said. “The kids know their music backwards and forwards.”

And in addition to rehearsing outdoors, they’ve out of an abundance of caution opted to wear masks and be physically distanced, he said.  

“We’re told that outside is the safest place to be, but we kind of want to go beyond the official restrictions if we can,” he said. “We decided that this was the safest way to do this.”  

Recognizing the volatile situation with regularly changing public health restrictions and the unpredictable nature of the pandemic has unfortunately left a spectre of uncertainty looming overhead.

“We really hope we can put this show on — we’re determined. But we don’t want to put people in danger,” said Syer.

Despite how much remains uncertain, Syer was able to confirm the venue is booked for dates that are set for evening performances on Friday and Saturday Nov. 12-13, as well as a Sunday matinée on Nov. 14.

“Both Brian and I always feel that it’s the process of preparing these (productions) that is just as significant as the final result. People are having a great time practising these songs and we hope that come the middle of November, we’ll be able to perform,” he said.

“But there’s a lot of unknowns between now and then, and the news continues to be disastrous.”

Push comes to shove, he said outdoor performances might be an option on the table.

“Although doing that in the middle of November is probably a little dicey,” he said.

“We could stream it, but our experience with streaming is that we don’t get the (same number of) viewers that would come if it was live, and that’s understandable.”  

For the time being, he said the cast and crew have decided to soldier on, taking the process one careful step at a time, one week at a time.

“When it starts to snow, then that’s going to be another decision. We want to try to be ahead of things.”

Syer also expressed gratitude to the municipality for approving a grant application that helped facilitate their effort.

“That was a real shot in the arm. Town council supported Matilda, and now they’re supporting this production,” he said.

Although the theatre group has not begun to publicly advertise the production, they plan to continue rehearsing in the hopes the stars align and they can deliver some much needed live entertainment to lift spirits.

“That’s what we’re doing as long as we can, and when we can’t, we’ll have more decisions to make.” 

Simon Ducatel

About the Author: Simon Ducatel

Simon Ducatel is the editor of the Sundre Round Up and a longtime columnist for other publications of Mountain View Publishing.
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