Making the Scene

Making the Scene

Musical Theatre of Anthem carries tunes through June

By Kenneth LaFave

For most of the year, Musical Theatre of Anthem (MTA) is exactly what its name indicates: a company devoted to producing shows such as Cats and Les Misérables. The MTA opened its 2018-2019 season in July with Footloose, and will close it in June 2019 with Freckleface Strawberry. But for a sliver of days between November 29 and December 2, it dropped the music to focus only on the theater.

“MTA generally produces musicals,” explains director Laura O’Meara. “However, each year one straight play is chosen for its actors and audiences. Such productions stretch our actors to perform without all the glitz and glamour of song and dance as they focus on the solo art of acting.”

Past non-musicals have included Our Town and The Diary of Anne Frank. This season’s offering was The Giver. “The Giver is based on the same-titled novel written by Lois Lowry about a young boy named Jonas who lives in a futuristic, idyllic society. He receives his Life Assignment at the age of 12 to be the Receiver of Memories. It is a position most honored, and through it he discovers both physical and emotional feelings beyond anything he could ever imagine. Most of all, he learns that there is power in those feelings,” O’Meara says.

O’Meara, who teaches fourth grade at Ridgeline Academy, has directed many musicals for MTA, including Beauty and the Beast, Peter Pan, 42nd Street and Mary Poppins.

Professional singer Shana Rebilas Bousard, a longtime Anthem resident, has performed in MTA productions and taught some of its summer classes for young people. She lauds the company for its service to the theater-loving community of the North Valley.

“I have many friends and professional colleagues who teach, act and direct at MTA, and I can state, with full confidence, that it is a wonderful organization. All involved share in nurturing and developing young talent. The founders, Jeff and Jackie Hammond, have instilled professional theatrical values in their students/performers, and they strive for and achieve high quality productions,” Bousard says.

MTA was founded 11 years ago, on the cusp of Anthem’s biggest growth. Co-founder and current producing artistic director Jackie Stewart Hammond brought a rich musical and theatrical background to the company, including a degree in musical theater from San Jose State University and training in opera at New York’s Manhattan School of Music. Under her guidance, MTA has won two ariZoni Awards, Valleywide awards given in recognition of theatrical excellence.

At first, audiences were confined more or less to Anthem. But as word of MTA’s quality spread, “we started attracting audiences of all sorts,” O’Meara says.

The company’s educational component has also grown over the years. Despite Anthem’s reputation for an older demographic, the community’s youth are a vital part of MTA’s commitment. Bousard points out, “We have quite a concentration of youth here in Anthem who are interested in pursuing a career in the arts or just the enjoyment and training of musical theatre, and they know that MTA is the place to go to receive proper training and a comprehensive musical theater education.”

Following The Giver’s short run of November 29–December 2, MTA’s season will continue with productions of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown; Daddy Long Legs; Sweeney Todd and other musicals. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit musicaltheatreofanthem.org.  

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