Buddy the Elf will soon be singing and dancing his way across the stage at the Aud Theatre in Elf the Musical, and crowds will once again marvel at the stunning costumes, the breathtaking sets and the extraordinary talent of the performers. But what does it take to produce a show of this calibre?
It starts with an idea. Musical Director/ Producer Michelle Chyzyk is busy months, sometimes years, in advance deciding on a show and securing the rights to produce it. Once that is done, the call goes out for auditions. Performers from all over Manitoba and Saskatchewan are eager to be part of the cast of one of the Virden Theatre Productions shows, not only because they are aware of the quality of the productions, but also because of the caring and supportive environment created by the performers and crew.
Once the cast is in place, a virtual of army of volunteers gets to work. There are sets to be built, props to be created or found, costumes to be sewn, advertising and promotion to be done – the list goes on and on.
Costume mistress Joyce Davies has been dressing actors for many years, and her attention to detail is second to none. Some performers could have as many as five costume changes, and it is Joyce’s job to make sure that each outfit fits perfectly and conveys the character’s personality. With the help of the staff of the Costume Closet, she carefully chooses costumes for each performer. She spends hours consulting with seamstresses Shirley Welch and Jean Anne Overand who have been tasked with the job of creating unique custom-made wardrobes for many of the actors, including Buddy and the elves. The result is a colourful feast for the eyes!
The Aud Theatre stage is small and the wings even smaller, so the set designers have to be very creative when creating the sets for our productions. The imaginative geniuses behind the sets for Elf, Murray Davies, Les Martens and Dean Munchinsky, have once again outdone themselves, bringing the North Pole, New York City, and Macy’s Department store, complete with revolving door, to Virden. The sets have almost become performers in our shows, gliding, moving and twirling on the darkened stage to reveal yet another scene. Les Martens heads up a construction crew of about ten people who have volunteered their time to make the jaw-dropping sets audiences look forward to seeing.
Kathy Welsh is the creative props lady who misses no detail; if the scene calls for a red telephone, there will be a red telephone. A scene needs a four-foot tall candy cane? Kathy will find it. Nothing short of perfection is good enough.
How do people find out about these productions? The promotions and advertising committee is busy posting on social media, putting up posters, distributing table top advertising to restaurants and businesses, and creating ads and writing articles for local print media. Led by Lynette Grumpelt, this team works hard to get the word out about our productions.
People have asked, “What does Virden Theatre Productions do with all the money they make from their shows?” The fact is there isn’t that much money to be made. A show like Elf the Musical will cost upward of $30 000 to produce; the rights alone can be as much as $15 000. Add in the cost of renting the Aud for two weeks, hiring the light and sound crew, bringing in a professional choreographer, purchasing the materials for the sets and costumes, buying advertising, having posters and other promotional materials printed, and there’s not much left when all the bills are paid.
Virden Theatre Productions is lucky to have many volunteers who donate their time, but they are also thankful for the support of sponsors who help offset some of the expenses. We are so fortunate to receive financial support from businesses that recognize and appreciate the importance of a vibrant arts community, as well as the synergies that can be generated by bringing people to town to see a show like Elf the Musical.
From start to finish, producing a musical in Virden is a labour of love, and when the performers hit the stage at the end of November, from start to finish, audiences will be awed by the magic that is Elf the Musical. Get your family together and come discover your inner elf!l
Submitted By Laura Wright/Virden Theatre Productions