The arts do abound for young performers

St. Jacobs-based theatre program for young people set to put on four plays at Floradale Mennonite Church

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The cast of Arts Abound play “We are Monsters” rehearsing at the Floradale Mennonite Church on Tuesday, right before a show. The group includes Elena, Loxley, Emmett, Taya, Avery, Keira W., Nohl, Lauryn, Lily D., Kiera D., Inara, Lily H., Madelyn, Hailey, Grace, Nolan, Natasha, Leah, Ella, Neve and Jillian. [Faisal Ali / The Observer]

Music and drama are sure to abound this month as the young actors of Arts Abound will be staging a series of musicals at Floradale Mennonite Church. Plenty of fun and more than a few laughs are on offer for the whole family in a variety of shows being put on by the St. Jacobs arts centre, from “We are Monsters” and “Giants in the Sky” to “Press Start.”

This year, there are four shows being put on by the young members of the Arts Abound theatre program, with the actors being organized by age group. Speaking to the cast members of Press Start, who are in Grades 4 to 6, the kids are proud and confident in their production, if also a little nervous.

“We’ve worked really hard, and everything that you see on stage, we have made, we have done,” says Lauren, who plays Mega Kid in Press Start. “It was a challenge to put this play together and we put a lot of work into it. So people should come because this play is not going to be pathetic!”

The kids laugh and agree, but add that the play boasts a lot of humor and toe-tapping musical numbers as well. The story is set in the “land of video games” and the kids are all dressed in colourful variations of familiar video game characters. Young audience members in particular are sure to recognize characters like Maria the Plumber and Princess Pomegranate.

The older folks will get see someone familiar too, as anyone who has ever attended the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival will instantly recognize the play’s guest star.

“There’s Flapjack the Pancake in the play, which is going to be quite amusing,” adds Lauren . “I think parents are going to get a kick out of that.”

Almost at the end of their rehearsals, the kids excitedly encourage everyone to come out and enjoy the shows, which runs on May 28 and 29.

“It’s different than your normal play that you’d go see. It’s more of a jumpy play, it sort of has the catchy music and costumes,” notes Nicky, who plays Generic Ghost.

“It’s a really exciting play and there’s a lot of plot twists like the villain scene where the villains are actually not that bad people, they’re quite nice. Just average Joe’s I guess,” adds Megan, who plays Princess Pomegranate.

For anyone who can’t make the show, however, there are still three more being put on by the Arts Abound troupe for different age groups.

“Our youngest group, our Grade 1 to 3, is doing We are Monsters,” says Arts Abound founder Shelley Martin. “Which is the story of four humans that go searching for a monster cabaret and in doing so meet a few different monsters. At first the monsters are afraid of the humans but in the end they realize that really, they’re not that different.

“It’s a nice story about friendship,” she adds. The show hits the stage on May 14 and May 15.

A second group of actors in Grades 4 to 6 will be staging the illustratively named musical, The Most Epic Birthday Party Ever.

Despite what the title would suggest, the birthday party at the centre of the story is going anything but “epically” as the parents all vanish from the scene, leading to the kids comical efforts to save the day. Things get even more complicated when argument breaks out between two siblings, threatening to split the party in two.

Finally, the oldest group, the Grade 7 to 9 actors, will be performing in the Giants in the Sky. The play is an inverse of the age-old Jack and the Bean Stalk tale, with an adventurous giant climbing down from the clouds to learn more about the world below. Giants in the Sky will be performed on May 30 and 31.

Besides the public shows, the Arts Abound are also putting on select performances for visiting schools from across the region. The group are expecting about 1,000 students to attend.

All public shows start at 7 p.m., while doors open half-an-hour earlier at the Floradale Mennonite Church. Tickets are $10, available at the door.

All four plays were created by Beat by Beat Press, a New York-based publisher that specifically creates musicals for young actors.