by Kelly Cameron by way of Broadwayworld.com
On Tuesday April 21st, 2009 Dancap Productions held open auditions for children aged 8-12 to be in the Toronto engagement of Canada’s longest running musical Anne of Green Gables. More than sixty children showed up at the open call, all eager for a chance to participate in this amazing piece of Canadian theatre. BWW was on hand to witness the entire audition process, and had the opportunity to interview some of the key people behind the production.
In attendance for the process were members from Dancap Productions, as well as Artistic Director Anne Allan and Musical Director Donald Fraser. Dance Captains and cast members Robin Calvert and Zak Kearns were also in attendance to assist in the casting process.
The studio at the Ossington Theatre was beautifully out-fitted with props from the production, and the kids started to pile in very quickly and filled the room. Tons of bright and smiling faces prepared to learn a song and dance from the musical and show off what they had to offer.
It was a very thorough audition process. The children learned a verse from the song “Ice Cream” and then were taught the dance that goes along with it. Dance Captains Robin Calvert and Zak Kearns were fantastic in their direction of the young children, helping them learn the steps quickly so that they could be evaluated. The process moved very smoothly, with the children being divided into groups according to sex and height and then performing for Anne Allan with accompaniment by Donald Fraser.
Once all the children had an opportunity to sing and dance, they had a sit-down with Ms. Allan where she demonstrated her unique ability to handle children. Ms. Allan had a wonderful group conversation with them where she explained various aspects of the theatre business as well as the auditioning process, and encouraged the children to continue on their path regardless of whether or not they got a role in their production. Ms. Allan was incredibly kind and approachable throughout the process, and it seemed as though all the children felt included regardless of whether or not they were called back. She explained that they would all have the opportunity to go back to their parents, and then certain children would be called back in to perform the final call-backs.
During this time, I was able to speak with Ms. Allan for an exclusive interview for BWW readers:
Do you feel that this is a good turn-out?
Yes definitely. The turn-out was fantastic.
How long have you been with the Charlottetown Festival Production of Anne of Green Gables – The Musical?
I’ve been with Anne for ten years.
Are you only casting the children at this time?
We are only casting the children in Toronto, although we did cast for some of the other roles prior to arriving here. We have a lot of returning cast members, but we did also need to cast some new people. It’s a great job for young dancers who are coming out of school because we need young kids or people who can look like young kids. So very often it’s a wonderful jumping off point for performers. Plus they get to be a part of a Canadian classic and that is a great opportunity as well. Many of them stay with us for a long time, but then sometimes they go off and do other jobs and we need to open up the casting process again.
Will the children chosen be only performing in Toronto?
Yes, they will just be in the Toronto engagement. A lot of the reason behind that is because of their age and also their height. Sometimes children can become too tall during a long run!
Once we are done, you will be bringing a select number of children back in for final call-backs. What is involved from here on out?
Now we have to streamline everything and pick exactly what we need. And even though we publish the breakdowns for height and age, many children like to come anyways so some can’t be considered because they don’t meet the basic criteria. Sometimes they might be too tall, because they have to look like a young child of Avonlea. So basically I can tell right away which ones might be too small and need to be a bit older, or which ones are already too tall. So height-wise I know right away which ones fit the bill, and from there it’s just a question of getting to look them over again in smaller numbers and choose exactly what we are looking for.
Approximately twenty children were brought back in for the final part of the audition process, and at this time, each had the opportunity to sing solo for Anne Allan and the rest of the casting crew. In addition, they learned a more complicated dance routine and did some additional work with Dance Captain Zak Kearns. At the end, Anne Allan sat down with the children and had a very informative and moving discussion about the demands that come with being in this type of production as well as general rules of the theatre. The children were extremely enthusiastic despite being tired from a long evening of auditioning, and each were eager to answer questions and display their knowledge of the do’s and don’ts of being in a professional production.
At the end of the night all the children went home and the casting crew were left with a very hard decision to make. All the children did a spectacular job and only four were being cast (two boys and two girls). It was not announced at the open call who had been selected, however BWW has been given an exclusive opportunity to follow-up with the children shortly after the show opens to hear how they felt about the audition process and how they are enjoying being in Anne of Green Gables – The Musical.
Anne of Green Gables – The Musical plays the Elgin Theatre from May 7th – 24th, 2009. Tickets start as low as $25 and can be purchased online or by calling 416-644-3665. For more information please visit http://www.dancaptickets.com