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Musicals back in full swing: Catch Matilda, RENT and Moana

December 01, 2022

​SJASD students and teachers are thrilled to offer audiences a full roster of musicals this school year, starting with Matilda: The Musical Jr., RENT: School Edition, and Moana.

While some musicals returned last spring, this will be the first time since 2018-19 that all seven school and divisional musical productions are back in play.

Matilda: The Musical Jr.Matilda_webnews2.jpg

Students at St. James Collegiate Institute (SJCI) are preparing to kick off the SJASD musical season with Matilda: The Musical Jr.

“We are so excited to have musical theatre back at St. James Collegiate this year!" said Demi Lough, Musical Director and SJCI Arts Department Head.

The musical follows the adventures of a brave and imaginative girl named Matilda, who rebels against her evil headmistress Miss Trunchbull.

“Both children and adults will love this story," said Demi. “We chose to go with Roald Dahl's much-loved story Matilda Jr. because of the catchy songs, memorable characters, and high energy dance numbers."

Demi says students have been preparing for this production since September. “They can't wait to showcase all their hard work to the community," she said. “As teachers, it has been an incredible experience watching the students grow and learn through the arts and we are so proud of their ability to problem solve, collaborate and express their creativity with confidence."

Performances of Matilda will be held on December 1 and 2 at George Waters Middle School. Ticket information is available online.​

RENT: School EditionRENT2_webnews.jpg

Over at Westwood Collegiate, students and teacher are gearing up for what is believed to be one of the first high school production of RENT: School Edition in Winnipeg.

The cutting-edge musical debuted on Broadway in 1996 and still resonates today with its gender diverse characters and serious look at a range of social and health issues including poverty, substance use, and the impact of HIV/AIDs. The musical follows a group of struggling artists trying to make a life for themselves under the shadow of the HIV/AIDs pandemic.

The School Edition version has been adjusted for an age-appropriate audience, but still maintains the character and intent of the original musical.

“We are thrilled to be able to present this powerful, topical musical," said Brian Toms, Westwood Arts Department Head. “The issues presented still connect with today's audience."

While film and theatre producers have been increasingly looking at how to create more inclusive roles that represent the diversity of their audiences, RENT was already doing this over 25 years ago.

“The importance of inclusive representation in musical theatre is still a struggle, and having a musical that presents such a diverse list of characters could not be more needed in today's world," said Brian, adding that he lacked gender diverse roles to audition for during his own high school musical years.

Grade 11 student Tori Brears plays the role of gender diverse public interest lawyer Joanne Jefferson.

“It's a very impactful musical," Tori told a community paper. “It's inspiring to learn about and get to be these types of people…I'm so appreciative I get to be a part of it."

Rent: School Edition runs from December 7 to 10 at Westwood Collegiate. Tickets are available online. Program alumni have been invited back to sing with the cast in the final number on Friday and Saturday night.

Divisional Musical MoanaMoana1_webnews.jpg

Paula Olko is the Divisional Musical Theatre Director. She's preparing to launch Moana in the New Year. The production has been a few years in the making.

“It was supposed to be the show two years ago and it was shut down due to COVID-19. So, when things opened up I figured, 'well, I've made a lot of the costumes,' she joked, adding, “it's a great story and the music is so fun."

The Divisional musical is unique in that Paula directs two full casts in order to accommodate students from across the Division. In total, all she's managing 160 cast members from grades 4 to 8, and many are new faces.

“A lot of kids haven't been in a musical before so it's a challenge but they are doing great," she said, adding that it's an opportunity for students to meet each other that might not otherwise connect.

Niamh (pronounced Neeve) O'Gorman is a grade 7 student from École Ness. She was thrilled to be offered the title role of Moana in one of the two casts.

“I was really excited, and it was really fun just to be in a musical again," she said. Niamh hasn't been able to participate in a musical since grade 4, when she was cast as Young Anna in the Divisional musical Frozen.

“I'm kind of nervous but I'm also really excited too," said Niahm. “I grew up watching (Moana) and I really liked the movie and it's a really great musical and they are so many good songs."

Moana runs from January 28 to February 4, 2023 at Westwood Collegiate Theatre. Specific dates and times to be determined soon.

Spring Musicals

Winter isn't the only season teeming with SJASD musicals. Check out the following four productions this spring:

  • Addams Family Musical (John Taylor Collegiate, May 3-6)
  • Disney's My Son Pinocchio JR. (Bruce Middle School, May 10-12)
  • Into The Woods JR. (Junior Musical, Westwood Collegiate, May 16-19)
  • The SpongeBob Musical (Sturgeon Heights Collegiate, May 31)

For more information about these musicals, visit school and Divisional websites closer to their launch dates.

Please note that audience goers are encouraged to follow public health measures to reduce the spread of respiratory viruses, including frequent hand washing, good respiratory etiquette, staying home when sick, and optional mask use.

(Top Image): SJCI students prepare for Matilda: The Musical Jr. The play is a based on Roald Dahl's 1988 children's novel about an imaginative girl who leads a revolt against mean headmistress Miss Trunchbull.

(Middle image): Rent: School Edition takes on challenging issues like poverty, addiction, integrity, representation and living for today. In this scene, character Tom Collins, played by Adam R. comforts dying character Angel Dumott Schunard, played by Merrick T.. (Photo credit: Ren Alvarez).

(Bottom image): Divisional musicals bring together students from grades 4 to 8 from across the Division. (From left): Rhyrdyn L. from École Ness plays Tamatoa, Teagan H. from Lincoln School plays Hei Hei, Niamh O. from École Ness plays Moana, and Emily K. from École Ness plays Sina. They are just a few members of two full casts performing the musical Moana.

(Rotating web banner image, previous page): Westwood Collegiate students take on RENT: School Edition from December 7 to 10, 2022. (Photo credit: Ren Alvarez).​​


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