Cast members in the Headliners production of Elf the Musical Jr. rehearse for their upcoming performances at Malaspina Theatre. (Josef Jacobson/The News Bulletin)

Headliners ushers in the season with pair of Christmas musicals

Young actors staging junior versions of ‘Elf the Musical’ and ‘Frozen’ at VIU theatre

Headliners School of Performing Arts is doubling down on Christmas productions this season as they bring a pair of yuletide musicals to the Malaspina Theatre stage.

On the first two weekend of December the youth theatre school presents the junior versions of Elf the Musical with the 11- to 15-year-olds and Frozen, featuring a cast of six- to 11-year-olds.

“We decided that it was time to just really get Christmas-y, that was ultimately the truth,” director Manda Chelmak said. “I had my sights set on something completely different and then ended up deciding it’s not about what I want to do as a director or a creative personality, it’s about what the kids wanna do.”

Elf is based on the 2003 film about Buddy, an orphan boy raised by elves in the North Pole who hopes to reunite with his father in New York City and ends up working in a department store. Headliners staged the musical four years ago with the younger age group and Chelmak said she’s excited to be presenting it with her teenagers this year.

Chelmak said there are returning cast members from the first production, including 12-year-old Maya Suitor, who plays the female lead, department store employee Jovie. She said she grew up watching the movie.

“It was really easy to get back into the music because I had already memorized it from Day One,” she said.

Suitor auditioned for the role because she admires Jovie’s boldness and independence. In the story opposites attract as the mature Jovie and goofy, childlike Buddy, played by 10-year-old Cayle McConville, become romantically involved.

“Cayle’s actually really good to work with because of how funny he is,” Suitor said. “And also just because of our age differences, it’s kind of easy to be and act more mature because I already do act more mature.”

For Frozen, Chelmak said she acquired professional costumes from a ballerina’s estate sale that “amped up” the production. When she asked her younger group if they wanted to stage the musical, based on Disney’s 2013 animated film adaptation of a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, she said they went “berserk.”

“They already knew it by the time they got here,” she said of her students. “They know all the songs, all the dances, they’re telling me how it should be done and I just have to keep reminding them we’re not doing the movie.”

WHAT’S ON … Headliners presents Elf the Musical Jr. at Malaspina Theatre, VIU Bldg. 310, on Friday, Dec. 6 at 7 p.m. and Saturday, Dec. 7 at 2 p.m. and Frozen Jr. at Malaspina Theatre on Saturday, Dec. 14 at 2 and 7 p.m. Tickets are $12, $5 for children five and under, available from Headliners, West Coast ReSale, via phone at 250-585-1811 or cash only at the door.

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