They say never work with children or animals, but many community theatre groups are taking up that baton and running with it. Over the past few years, many companies have staged productions that involve a child-heavy cast, from Annie to the Wizard of Oz, Oliver! to The Sound of Music. Our local kids have had the chance to showcase their talent to a crowd larger than their school auditoriums can accommodate. Not only is it great to see our young people keeping out of trouble and following their passions, community theatre is a great try out zone of kids to test their theatre wings and decide if maybe they want to do this as a career. This is especially relevant with the Broadway-hit Matilda set to hit our shores in August 2015 with audition dates starting later this year.

Community theatre groups are engaging kids ranging in age from 6 up and all of them are in school. In order to cater to school, homework, and the need to get these kids home to bed at a reasonable hour many groups choose to double cast. While casting a lead and an understudy is not only common but highly advisable when you’re dealing with children, some groups are creating two ensemble casts; for example, in their recent production of The Wizard of Oz, Redcliffe Musical Theatre had two rotating munchkin ensembles, an Emerald Cast and a Ruby Cast. Double casting not only let the kids have a break every second day, keeping them rested and ready for both school and the show, but it also gave even more children the opportunity to perform.

Above: a production image of the Original Broadway Cast of Matilda, a show full of wonderful roles for children.

Over the past year and a half I’ve interviewed many kids about the productions they’ve been a part of for my theatre reviews. When asked if they want to pursue theatre as a full time career, the answers these theatre kids have given me have been wide and varied. I’ve had a ten year-old tell me that this is definitely what they want to do with their life, that it’s their passion. Conversely, I’ve had a six year-old tell me that he really wants to be a vet but maybe he can just do musical theatre on the side after work. No matter their answer, the consensus has been that musical theatre is something they want to continue with throughout their lives.

Even talking to the parents, many are using theatre as a way to get their kids off the computer and out socialising. One father I spoke to recently said that it was a push to get his son to audition but after opening night he came home all smiles, already planning his next audition. The boy is now taking dance classes with another local company.

While not every child is suited to the stage and not every theatre career will make money, theatre is a great opportunity for kids to get out there, have some fun, and gain some confidence.  There are so many great community groups in the greater Brisbane area, a quick google search is all it takes. So if you have a kid who sings in the shower, dances in the halls, but doesn’t seem to get out much, check your local theatre groups and see what they have coming up. Even if there are no auditions up-coming there’s sure to be a show somewhere near you that’s affordable and family friendly. And if your kid is already into musical theatre, keep an eye out for the Matilda auditions, you could have the next Matilda Wormwood or Bruce Bogtrotter in your midst.

What are some of your favourite shows featuring children? Let us know by commenting!