By Mike Anderson

The Queensville Players, Georgina’s only community theatre group, opens its 2022/23 season with Disney’s High School Musical at the Stephen Leacock Theatre on November 18.

Based on the hit 2006 movie starring Zac Efron (Troy) and Vanessa Anne Hudgens (Gabriella), the twenty-person QP cast will perform the movie’s memorable show tunes and dazzling choreography ten times over two weekends from November 18 to 27.

“We love the movie,” said Karin Simpson, the theatre group’s president and musical director.

“It’s that age-old love story where you just happen to fall into the right place at the right time with the right person,” she said.

Simpson says QP had planned to produce the musical in 2020, but the pandemic forced them to shut down production.

“So we have a cast that’s mixed with the original cast that we had two years ago and some new people who have come in,” she said

“We also have a beautiful set on the way that set designer Alf Judd has created. It’s a masterpiece. It has two levels with stairs coming up on either side.”

According to Simpson, 70 per cent of the cast, mainly between the ages of 15 and 19, are from Georgina, with several of the leads attending Huron Heights’ drama and music program in Newmarket.

While the theatre group, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary, usually produces two musicals a year, Simpson says this year they’re expanding their repertoire to include the Laramie Project, a critically acclaimed play about the 1998 murder of a gay university student, Matthew Shepard, in Laramie, Wyoming.

Simpson says while musicals, like High School Musical and Beauty and the Beast, slated for April, tend to draw larger audiences, more cutting-edge productions, like the Laramie Project, often struggle to put people in the seats.

With each show costing upwards of $10,000 to produce, including licensing fees, sets, costumes, and theatre and rehearsal space rentals, QP has to be selective about the productions it brings to the stage.

“Our money depends on ticket sales. So we could be out $10K if we put on a show but then don’t have enough people come and see it,” she said.

“For instance, when we put on something that is meant to be somewhat high-brow to encourage a particular demographic; they’re just not coming.”

Karin Simpson

Still, Simpson believes that with stepped-up marketing and advertising, mainly by the Town of Georgina, which operates the Stephen Leacock Theatre, QP could grow ticket sales, even for original theatrical works.

“We spend a lot of time encouraging support for local farmers, local shops, local restaurants, that kind of thing. But supporting community theatre is just as important and needs to be included in the conversation,” she said.

“Just like we encourage people to buy local, we want to encourage people to watch local. Our shows are amazing; we’ve won several awards for the quality of the show that we put on. This is not mickey mouse direction. But trying to get people to come to the theatre to see us is a big struggle.”

Simpson would also like to see the Town reduce its rental fees.

According to Simpson, the Town currently charges $45 an hour to rent the theatre for rehearsals, a reduced rate for non-profits.

But because many of QP’s productions often require more than 160 hours of rehearsal, she says even the reduced rate is prohibitive.

Instead, the group rents the basement of the Queensville United Church, which lacks lighting and sets, for about $25 a night.

“When the Town does not help us save costs; it lets us know where we stand. We don’t have the same value as something, like sports, that might bring in more money,” she said.

“Uxbridge has three thriving musical theatre companies, and a music hall packed all the time. People come, and they support that. And I think to myself, Georgina is much bigger. We have lots of opportunities to have more people involved, yet, still, half the town has no idea who we are.”

To find out more and to purchase tickets for upcoming shows, like High School Musical, visit www.queensvilleplayers.ca.

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1 COMMENT

  1. Thank you, Mike, for this article. I have been a member of Queensville Players, for many years, sitting on the board, acting onstage, helping out behind the scenes and front of house. Three of my (now adult) children grew up on the stage at Stephen Leacock Theatre. The friendships accumulated over the years are solidly based. It’s a family and community in and of itself and the multigenerational aspect of many of our productions feeds into that. As Karin has stated, it’s such a pity that so very many in the town don’t even know these opportunities exist. Your article is a step forward in that direction.

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