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Markham Youth Theatre Ready To Venture
Into The Woods

article and photos by Grant Weaver   

photo of final dress rehearsal Sept. 5 by Kathy Tam

(Aug. 31/07)            The Markham Youth Theatre is putting the finishing touches on their 2007 production “Into The Woods” which will play at the Markham Theatre For Performing Arts from September 6th to the 8th. 

           “Into The Woods”, with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and story by James Lapine, had its Broadway premiere in 1987 and won Tony Awards for Best Score and Best Book. It had its Broadway premiere in 1987 and won Tony Awards for Best Score and Best Book and has become a popular, and challenging, production for community theatres.

Producer Kathy Tam and
Director Brian Lee
Orchestra conductor Elizabeth Man,
 Jeffrey Ho - piano, Jack Feng - synthesizer,
 Beth Silver - cello

            The narrative weaves together five 19th century tales from the Brothers Grimm, creating a plot in which the desire of the Baker and his Wife to have a child entwines them in the stories of Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, Rapunzel and Cinderella.  Each of these characters is on a quest for something, a quest that leads to all kinds of complications for everybody.  It has its comic moments but it also confronts many serious issues of life.  Above all, this musical, just as fairy tales often do, deals with the relationships between parents and children and their duties towards each other. 

   paid a visit to the Markham Youth Theatre’s August 29 rehearsal and spent an evening with the young cast and crew as they went through their paces.

The production is directed by Brian Lee and produced by Kathy Tam.  They have brought together a talented group of actors and, along with conductor Elizabeth Man, have assembled an orchestra of gifted young musicians.

Tiffany Lau was called upon to fill the onerous job of stage manager and three members of the cast are doubling as key people in the production crew.  Olivia Sementsova, in addition to her acting role as Florinda, is costume designer.  Set design is in the capable hands of Ali Lee-Goldenberg, who plays Jack, while Dayna Chernoff, the Baker's Wife, is the technical director.  Gus Taylor has gathered and is responsible for the show’s many props.

Stage Manager Tiffany Lau
Costume designer Olivia Sementsova
 with Chris James

Of course, in the spirit of community theatre, everybody pitches in on the myriad tasks involved in mounting the show.  And with a youth oriented company like MYT, supportive parents are also an important part of the team. 

The Markham Youth Theatre is a non-profit theatre company founded in 1992 with the goal of providing the youth of Markham and the GTA with the opportunity to be involved in staging theatrical productions of a professional calibre.  The company generally applies a maximum age of twenty-five and this year’s youngest performer is eleven.       

Brian Lee is a case in point of how MYT gives young people a chance to learn and develop their theatrical skills.  He has been active in the company since he was in Grade 7 and now, entering Grade 11 this fall, is already a veteran, taking on the directing of a large-scale production.

One of Brian’s first decisions was to recruit Kathy Tam as producer.  Kathy is a graduate of Unionville High School who was previously involved in MYT productions while still a student.  Now she is balancing duties as producer of “Into The Woods” with her new profession of pharmacist. 

Set designer
Ali Lee-Goldbenberg
Technical Director
Dayna Chernoff
Props Manager
Gus Taylor

Unionville High School can be proud of the many current or former students in this year’s production.  Its arts and drama program has trained a good part of this year’s cast and crew.  Orchestra conductor Elizabeth Man is a graduate of UHS and drew many of her musicians from that school.  Stage Manager Tiffany Lau is currently in Grade 11 at UHS and is enrolled there in the Arts York program.  Costume designer Olivia Sementsova is also a UHS product.       

The choice of “Into The Woods” as their main production for 2007 was the initiative of Brian Lee who saw the show performed in Oxford, England and fell in love with it. 

“It’s a show with a very dedicated base of people.  It’s not a global show that everyone loves.  But it is, for certain people, an iconic piece,” he explained.  “Besides the fact that it involves fairy tales, it’s an incredibly well crafted piece.”

It has become a popular show for community theatres.  This year’s auditions, held in March, drew sixty actors aspiring for the sixteen roles. 

“It is a bit more challenging than other shows and people want to put themselves to the test,” said Kathy Tam to account for the large number of young people who were keen to have parts.

Chris James (Cinderella's Prince & the Wolf)
and Lizo Madikiza (Rapunzel's Prince)
Tess Barao, Todd Martin,
Dayna Chernoff (the Baker's Wife)
and Ali Lee-Goldenberg

The music of Sondheim in itself offers challenges. 

“He likes to change metres a lot, has very challenging rhythms, off beat syncopated stuff,” Elizabeth Man told us.  But there was also a big turnout for the orchestral auditions held at the beginning of the summer and she is impressed with the talent of the musicians she selected.

“Sondheim is a favourite among a lot of music people,” she said.

           Our evening at the MYT rehearsal also afforded us the opportunity to renew acquaintance with Jeff Jones who we last met in July at the Toronto Fringe theatre festival. 

             “... of enigmatic things”, a show featuring many of Jeff's songs, was a big success at the festival and Charcoal Sketch Productions’ musical ensemble featured Tess Barao and Dayna Chernoff who are now appearing in “Into The Woods” in the roles, respectively, of the Witch and the Baker’s Wife.   Jeff attended the rehearsal to provide continuity and advice, being one of the founders of the Markham Youth Theatre and now with many musical and theatrical accomplishments to his credit. 

As Kathy Tam explained, Markham Youth Theatre also enjoys a good relationship with Markham Little Theatre who offer MYT the use of their wonderful rehearsal venue beside the Markham Museum and to whom MYT often turns for advice. Cast member Riley Raymer has appeared in a Markham Little Theatre production.

Three members of the show’s cast and crew are also members of the board of directors of MYT Brian Lee, stage manager Tiffany Lau, and Dayna Chernoff.

Jana Huang ( Lucinda / Cinderella's Mother),
Janine Fuglerud (Cinderella's Stepmother),
Olivia Sementsova (Florinda) and
 Riley Raymer (Cinderella) seated
Lizo Madikiza, Olivia Sementsova
  and Madeline Mason (Rapunzel)

The MYT is entirely self-supporting.  It does not currently receive any assistance from the Town of Markham and therefore relies on fund-raising efforts, donations, the sale of advertisements in its show program and, most of all, the support of the theatre going public. So come on out and enjoy some great theatre produced right here in Markham. 

The combination of an award winning musical, and the enthusiasm, talent and energy of this young cast and production team is sure to provide a delightful evening’s entertainment. 

      Once again, the show runs from Thursday, September 6 to Saturday, September 8 at the Markham Theatre For Performing Arts.  Tickets can be purchased through the box office of Markham Theatre at 905-305-7469.

Jennifer Goldenberg
(Granny / the Giant's Wife)
Janine Fuglerud, Olivia Sementsova,
Alexis T. Silvera and
Andrew Gibson (Narrator / Mysterious Man)
Bram Cayne Denis Coyne and Natalie Wong Mark Towstego, Matthew Mallare, Leonia Thames
Tess Barao, Alexis T. Silvera, Madeline Mason,
Jana Huang, Riley Raymer, Ali Lee-Goldenberg
enjoy a moment's break
Markham Youth Theatre co-founder
Jeff Jones (left) and Brian Lee.
Jeff was on hand to offer the cast
 encouragement and advice.

Members of the cast not appearing in the photos:
Andrew DiRosa (Jack's Mom), Jill Kooymans (Steward), Amy Wajchendler (Milky White)

Members of the orchestra not appearing in the photos:
Linda Morana (flute/piccolo), Cassandra Bangay (clarinet), Caitlin Nishimura (clarinet),
Shirley Chen (bassoon), Charna Matsushige (violin), Crystal Mallory (French horn)

photo of final dress rehearsal Sept. 5 by Kathy Tam

Click here for the full show details and poster.


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