It’s been almost 20 years since Leslie Hopps-Deschutter has been involved with a production of the 1950 musical Guys and Dolls, but this time she’s not on stage. She’s in the director’s chair.
“I absolutely have an understanding of the characters’ relationships having approached the work from an actor’s point of view,” she said.
“I definitely have some insights as to the thought process the actors go through, but it’s a much bigger picture when you’re directing because you have to be responsible for everybody’s thought process, not just your own character’s.”
Since September Hopps-Deschutter has been leading her cast of young teenagers at Headliners School of Performing Arts through rehearsals for their production of the musical, which comes to the Malaspina Theatre for three shows on Dec. 8 and 9.
Hopps-Deschutter said she chose to stage Guys and Dolls because after performing the contemporary musical Legally Blonde last year, it was time to introduce the students to an old-school Broadway musical.
“I really wanted to give these kids the experience of working on a classic and having a large spectrum of musical theatre,” she said.
“They’re really familiar with some of the modern musicals that are happening right now but it’s great to look back at what was done in the past and have a really broad range of knowledge and a broad repertoire of musicals.”
Thirteen-year-old Headliners veterans Ella Watson and Jaden Brown, who play female leads Sarah Brown and Adelaide respectively, said they weren’t too familiar with the musical at the start of the production, but enjoyed being introduced to the new material and learning more about what Brown called “the world of theatre.”
“It’s basically a really cool learning experience because if you do a show that you don’t know when you first start the semester, [once] you first start actually working on it you find out lots about the show,” Watson said.
“I would almost call it a cultural experience,” added Celeste Nuernberger, also 13, who is making her Headliners debut as Sky Masterson, one of the show’s male leads.
Nuernberger said she joined the cast because she enjoys acting and singing and wanted to spend time with her cousin, who is also in the show.
“I was lucky because my cousin know like all of [the actors] so I was kind of just engulfed by everyone.”
Despite their initial unfamiliarity, Hopps-Deschutter said her cast has taken to the material well.
“They are so enthusiastic. These kids absolutely love theatre so they are just so happy to just jump in and roll up their sleeves and they’re just keen,” she said.
“They just absolutely thrive off of theatre, which reminds me of me when I was their age. It’s one of those things, like some kids love sports, some kids love science, these kids love theatre.”
WHAT’S ON … The Headliners production of Guys and Dolls comes to VIU’s Malaspina Theatre on Friday, Dec 8 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, Dec. 9 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 in advance or $12 at the door.