Children's Musical Theatre of Oregon will present a full cast of Rogue Valley kids in its production of “Broadway II: The Journey Continues.” - Photo courtesy of CMTO

'Broadway II: The Journey Continues'

The kids are back. About 50 of them, and they'll be singing and dancing up a musical storm this weekend when Children's Musical Theatre of Oregon presents "Broadway II: The Journey Continues." The show runs at 7 p.m. Friday through Saturday, March 20-21, with a 1 p.m. matinee Saturday, March 21.

The timing of the show coincides with a new partnership relationship between CMTO and Craterian Performances.

"We're adopting them," says Stephen McCandless, Craterian Performances' executive director. "We're stepping in to provide professional-level staffing and facilities for their program and productions. Our production management staff becomes their production management staff and our marketing resources become their marketing resources."

In return, CMTO's program becomes a youth program of the Craterian organization.

"It's going to improve the access to kids overall," says CMTO's artistic director and co-founder John Taylor. "We'll be able to get the word out to more people because of the outreach of the Craterian when they plug us into that. Their reach is huge."

CMTO's original revue, "Broadway: A Musical Journey," was such a hit with local audiences that they asked for more. And in true show-biz style, CMTO and Craterian Performances have obliged. "Broadway II" follows the continuing adventures of Reda, the show's irrepressible heroine, as she travels the highways and byways of Musical Theatre-Land. Along the way she meets singers and dancers from 17 of Broadway's greatest hits, including "A Chorus Line," "Rent," "Damn Yankees," "The Lion King," "Hairspray" and "Mary Poppins." Every visit provides Reda with a life lesson of some sort.

"There are rousing ensemble numbers and big dance numbers," Taylor says. "And there are good, fast-moving, tongue-in-cheek bits for those who know Broadway and pop icon references."

John and Rhonda Taylor established Children's Musical Theatre of Oregon in 2005, with the idea of training young actors, singers and dancers by staging full-length musicals. Past productions include "Grease: The School Version" (Spring 2006), "The Wizard of Oz" (Fall 2006), "High School Musical" (Spring 2007), "Peter Pan" (Summer 2007), "Broadway: A Musical Journey" (Spring 2008) and "Oklahoma!" (Summer 2008).

Auditions are required for each production but all who audition are castn. To date a total of 300 young people from Jackson and Josephine counties have participated in CMTO productions. The youngest performers are 8 years old and the oldest are in their late teens and older.

"It's not a drop-off program," McCandless says of the families' relationship to the young performers. "Mom and Dad are there working."

Some have found the experience to be something they all have in common to do together as a family.

"We want to enhance all that," McCandless emphasizes, "We don't want to change it. We keep doing what we do and they keep doing what they do."

John Taylor is the former musical director, keyboardist and conductor of Cirque du Soleil's "O" at the Bellagio Resort in Las Vegas. For "Broadway II," he created a symphonic reproduction on his keyboard that faithfully replicates the sound of a 60-piece orchestra. Taylor feels that the partnership with the Craterian will keep raising the professional quality of CMTO's shows. He has invited the Craterian's artistic participation in CMTO productions and will have access to Craterian's stage manager and lighting designer.

"Musical theater is our signature program piece," McCandless says. "It requires acting, vocal and dance training. What CMTO is about is the thing we specialize in bringing to the community."

Tickets to "Broadway II: The Journey Continues" are $20 for adults, $10 for youth (0-17).

Call 779-3000 for information.

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