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It's a go for Millie at Heritage Woods
She calls her concussion “Marvin.”
It was easier for Shanda Walters to put a name to it, given the stress her brain has been under since December, when the Heritage Woods secondary theatre teacher accidentally knocked her head on a safety bar while watching a MetFest play in the booth.
Walters has been under doctors’ orders not to stimulate “Marvin” too much every day. As a result, that has meant stopping work until the summer as well as stepping aside as director of Thoroughly Modern Millie.
A few weeks ago, students and teachers at the Port Moody high school had a heart-to-heart about Walters’ “unlucky bump” and thought about cancelling the winter production they had been rehearsing since last September, said stage manager and Grade 12 student Samantha Pedersson.
But, with the help of Gleneagle secondary’s drama instructor, Ashley Freeborn, who had directed the musical with her seniors last year, they decided their show would go on.
Freeborn said it’s been a lot of work — filling in as artistic director twice a week after school while also getting her own Coquitlam class ready for Footloose in May — but she heaped praise on the Heritage students for working as a team under the direction of alumnus Sydney Freeman and choreography by current students Danica Kobayashi, Kaila Kask and Nathan Sartore.
Freeborn also singled out Cassandra Turner, the Lindbjerg Academy of the Performing Arts student who will graduate from Heritage in June, for her strong portrayal as the lead Millie Dillmount.
In turn, all at Heritage — especially general manager Ingrid Gay and Michael Costa (Walters’ class sub) — are grateful to Freeborn for bringing Millie to the stage in time.
Besides her directing expertise, Freeborn has also loaned sets and costumes used in last year’s show at Gleneagle.
Still, the musical is nothing new for Heritage as theatre students there mounted it five years ago. Jonathon Connelly, the Grade 11 student who portrays Jimmy — Millie’s love interest — said the class wanted to revive it as this cast suited the roles.
“It was really a perfect fit for us,” said the Scottish native. “We also wanted to put our own interpretations on them.”
Turner, who plans to pursue a theatre and English degree in September, believes Millie — a small-town girl in search of a new life in the Big Apple in 1922 — is a likeable and relatable character. “She’s so fun to play,” Turner gushed.
As for Walters, she said it feels strange to be disconnected from the production and the students “but I know the show is in good hands and I hope to be able to see it,” she said.
• Thoroughly Modern Millie — under the baton of Rebecca Norman — runs at Heritage Woods secondary (1300 David Ave., Port Moody) on Feb. 28, March 1, 7 and 8 at 7:30 p.m. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $12/$10 at the school by calling 604-461-8679.