The Kemptville Youth Musical Theatre Company (KYMTC) just finished their 2018 run a few weeks ago, garnering rave reviews from the more than 3,400 people that came to see the show. This year’s production was The Hunchback of Notre Dame, a musical based on the gothic novel by Victor Hugo about a disfigured man who lives in the bell tower of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. The show was bolstered this year by the angelic voices of the North Grenville Concert Choir in their first collaboration with KYMTC.
This is not the first year KYMTC has put on a show that has amazed and delighted audiences. The theatre company was started in 2002 by North Grenville resident Barbara Lacelle, who was inspired by her daughter, Kathleen, who was into music and theatre while she was in high school. “I was taking her everywhere to audition,” Barbara remembers. “I thought there might be a group in Kemptville who wanted to put on a show.”
2002 was a year that the teachers were on a work-to-rule, so there were no extracurriculars after school. Barbara was encouraged by the St. Michael Catholic High School Principal at the time, Jane McMillan, to start a community theatre company to give kids something to do in their spare time.
The first production staged by KYMTC was Oklahoma, in the spring of 2003. Because the show needed a large cast of 27, everyone who auditioned got a role. Barbara paid for the licensing fee out of pocket, built the set out of donated cardboard boxes, and borrowed the costumes from a production she had seen at a private school in Brockville. Oklahoma was a huge success, selling out three of the four shows, proving that there was a space for youth musical theatre in North Grenville.
The company has evolved from there into an organization that draws kids from North Grenville, but also Ottawa and other surrounding areas. “We had a lot of kids coming from Ottawa to audition this year,” Barb says. “Some of them drove out here up to three times a week to practice.”
Barbara’s daughter, Kathleen, has long since moved on from the theatre company, although she has been involved in their summer camps with her husband, Phillip Kanopka, who serves as the accompanist for the productions. Even so, Barbara has continued to be dedicated to the company, putting on at least one, if not two, shows a year for over fifteen years. “I love kids and I love theatre,” she says. “I get as much, or more, out of it as they do.”
Barbara says she feels blessed to continue to be the company’s Artistic Director. She loves using her creative side to create productions that the kids are proud to be a part of. “I see them grow and take risks before my eyes,” she says. “If you put a good production behind them, it makes it easier for them to put themselves out there.”
Youth from Grade 7 to age 19 play a role in all aspects of the production. They help with the set, costumes, lighting, and anything else that needs to happen to make the show a success. That being said, Barbara says she has built a strong network of adults over the years who pour their hearts into every aspect of the musicals. From Laura Anderson, the choreographer, to Bonnie Selleck, the set designer, to Carolyn Bruce, the costume designer, Kevin Colwell, the assistant director and lighting designer, and Marilyn Conroy, the producer, Barbara is adamant that she could not put on such high-quality shows if it weren’t for her team. “I could go on and on about all the people who help bring it to life.”
KYMTC is a volunteer-run organization, and the youth don’t pay anything to be part of the show. Everything needed to stage the production is paid for by ticket sales and community sponsors. Their main sponsor is Scotiabank, which gives them $5,000 towards the production every year.
Barbara says it usually takes four months, from start to finish, for a production to come together. Now that the 2018 show has been put to bed, she is already thinking about next year’s production, with auditions already being set for September. “It’s my love,” she says, with clear passion in her eyes. “Kids have a lot to offer, and we underestimate what they bring to the community. They have brought a lot of joy to people in the past couple weeks.”