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Commentary by Gloria Locke
| Sunday, Nov 17, 2013
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glorialockeWide-eyed and filled with wonder, children enjoyed storytelling coming to life on the stage at the Santa Clarita Performing Arts Center at College of the Canyons.

“Henry and Mudge,” a favorite book of many elementary students, was presented at the PAC by New York’s TheatreworksUSA cast.  From the tiniest tot to the grayest grandpa, the enchanting musical production of a young boy and his dog warmed the hearts and opened the minds of many first-time theatre goers.

“My granddaughters read the story about Henry and Mudge at school, and I thought this would be a great time to bring them to their first play,” said Janie, a Santa Clarita resident.

“I remember when I saw my first show, how filled with joy and excitement that I was,” said Kyle Branzel, who plays Dad in the production. “And I see them in the audience and it makes me so happy.”

The play depicts a boy who moved from the city to a new home in the country.  Henry (played by Luke Hoback) left his cousin and best friend, Annie (Christina Rodriguez) when he moved. As many parents do, Mom (Callie Carson) and Dad (Kyle Branzel ) get Henry a new best friend – you guessed it, a big dog, which they name Mudge (Zach Bencal).  Conflict arises when Annie comes to visit and becomes “best friends” with Mudge.  Mudge, however, proves to be man’s best friend after he rescues Henry, lost in the woods.

“For live performances, it makes (kids) feel like they’re actually in the show,” said Darcy, who was thrilled to see his cousin from New York in the cast.

“It’s so different seeing actual people on the stage as opposed to moving pictures on a screen,” says Luke Hoback. “Even though they might be very young, they might someday want to have a career in acting.”

TheatreworksUSA creates productions that relate to kids on their level. Little PAC patrons were eager to share their favorite parts of the show with the cast during a meet and greet after the performance.

“My favorite part was when the pink girl with the pink dress was all dirty,” said Katie Jo.

“It’s something really cool about TheatreworksUSA is, these shows don’t really talk down to kids. They really play to kids,” says Zach Bencal, still in costume as Mudge.

TEACH, part of College of the Canyons community outreach, provided arts and crafts before the performance completing the memorable visual and performing art experience. Busy hands were coloring, cutting and making beaded jewelry.  Older children were also invited to expand vocabulary with a Henry and Mudge word-search.

Giving the gift of the arts is a great for the holidays and bonds families by creating a memory to share together.

“I’m carrying on the tradition,” said Tenisha Stewart of Santa Clarita. “When I was young, my mother would take me to the Performing Arts Center for orchestras and arts, so I’m taking my children so they can experience the same.”

Art, music, theatre and dance engage young minds with creativity and new dreams.

“I think it’s important to bring live theatre to young children just for having new inspirations, new ideas, and new ambitions,” said Callie Carson.

“In this day and age there’s so much technology” said Christina Ramirez. “We’re the only storytellers left, and I think it’s so important that storytelling isn’t dead. This exact performance won’t ever happen again, and everybody who was here who shared that with us, we all share that together.”

Perhaps consider adding the arts to your holiday shopping list and open a child’s horizon to more than mobile devices.  It’s well worth seeing the expression on a child’s face watching a live performance for the first time. “Priceless” is the only way to explain it. And from the kid’s point of view: “I love the show!” shouts little Jared.

Yes, musical theatre is keeping us young at heart … and that, too, is priceless.

 

Gloria Locke is a Santa Clarita resident and producer of “SCV-Arts & Entertainment,” which airs Fridays and Sundays on SCVTV.

 

 

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