It started with an opportunity to audition, and less than one-week later ended with a full-on musical performance with the renowned Missoula Children’s Theatre.
Nearly three dozen Joint Base Lewis-McChord youths auditioned for roles in the musical, which was produced over the course of five days at Child and Youth Services’ Gymnasium on Lewis Main. The musical theater camp cost about $5,000 to pay for two directors, sets and other expenses, which was paid for by USAA, according to Erin Clapper, facility director for McChord Field Youth Center and piano accompanist for the production.
Clapper said she has worked previously with MCT at other military bases across the country and was excited to bring the experience to JBLM.
“I think the whole experience is amazing,” she said, after a company rehearsal.
Clapper coordinated the event and agreed to accompany the young people after she was unable to find another volunteer pianist. SKIES Unlimited co-director Cindy Arnold also helped with the production.
“I’m just here to support CYS and lend a hand wherever it’s needed,” Arnold said. “I was really intrigued to see how they do this all in one week.”
As D.J. Batchelor, a director with MCT, sang along with the children during Thursday’s rehearsal, the kids moved in excited unison to a variety of dances and tunes.
“Look, it’s the gulls,” 11-year-old Skyler Ostendorf said, as he pointed to where a flock of other young actors flapped their “wings” and entered stage right.
Skyler is no newbie to acting, dancing and singing. The son of Sgt. Todd Ostendorf, 56th Multifunctional Medical Battalion, 62nd Medical Brigade, and his wife, Sarah, Skyler has been a member of SKIES Unlimited classes for the past few years, and he plans to continue his studies of dance and someday dance on Broadway. The production with Missoula Children’s Theatre was the next best thing, for now.
“I thought (auditioning and being part of the production) would be a fun thing to do; I wanted to see how Broadway would work,” he said.
Although the production was far off Broadway, Skyler still thought it was a good learning experience, and he said he’d recommend it to young dancers of all performance levels.
“It’s great for all ages,” Skyler said. “If you haven’t done a single dance move in your life, it’s great because it starts with the basics.”
Performing with MCT was nothing new for 12-year-old performer, Kyla Knight, a student at Pioneer Middle School in DuPont.
She moved to JBLM three months ago with her parents, Monica and Master Sgt. Douglas Tolliver, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 42nd Military Police Brigade, and 5-year-old sister, Kayliyah. This is Kyla’s fifth performance with Missoula Children’s Theatre. This time, she has the starring role of Jim Hawkins.
Kyla said she hopes to be an actress someday and didn’t mind playing a male lead. She was excited to learn her 82 lines in the show. Monica Tolliver said Kyla has learned a lot of adaptability and focus through performing.
“She immerses herself in the role and embraces the character,” she said.
“It’s just like with the military,” Monica said. “We’ve moved a lot, and with military life you embrace all people. Kyla is better at that because of what she has learned through acting.”