The Marblehead Little Theatre youth program took the stage with the musical “Bots” with a cast of 22 kids ages seven to 12, “Bots” completely sold out every performance and even had to add one more showtime than usual due to such high demand.
More youth productions will follow “Bots” later in the year, giving young actors more opportunities to snag a part and develop their acting skills.
MLT’s youth program runs two major shows per year, in the fall and spring. Ali Mahon, the program director, organizes and directs both shows, as well as several workshops throughout the year. According to her, many kids who start out with a workshop decide to audition for one of the bigger shows, allowing for such large casts.
As the actors filed onstage for their dress rehearsal on Nov. 10, Mahon commented, “They always lighten the energy. They have an optimism and a hope that’s so refreshing.”
“Bots” tells the story of a robotics competition, and the teamwork and fierce rivalries that go with it. Actors play both humans and robots alike amidst a colorful techno-style backdrop of pulsing LEDs and circuitry patterns painted on the stage.
As usual, MLT’s Andrew Barnett took charge of the tech and the sets for “Bots” with a little help from some creative parents.
The youth program welcomes parent participation in children’s shows, as in the case of “Bots” with the set designs robot costumes. The flashing lights and shiny getups empower the kids to take center stage and let all the hard work they’ve put in shine through, especially with their singing.
The songs in “Bots” and many of the program’s other musical selections are written specifically for children’s voices, allowing them to feel confident instead of intimidated while learning their pieces. Music director Emily Northridge used the tracks provided by Beat by Beat Press, the producer of “Bots” and other children’s musicals and lyric sheets to teach the kids their parts.
“They’re actually really good about practicing on their own,” she said of the young singers, commenting on how each kid who takes on a role is committed to learning their part. Mahon agreed that the actors certainly enjoy the whole production process, remarking on how it’s not uncommon to see kids go from cases of complete stage fright to taking on leading roles throughout the course of their time at MLT.
According to the actors at the dress rehearsal, the reason they keep coming back to MLT is because, “It’s just, like, fun.”
From singing in group numbers onstage to taking snack and meal breaks together, the casts of MLT shows find plenty of time to bond.
“Everyone knows everyone, and everyone is friends,” said one actor, waving around at the cast.
“It’s just, like, fun,” added another.
Other actors commented on how the shows have helped them deal with stress. Overall, the comfortable environment combined with fun vocal warm-ups, choreography and costumes keep kids coming back season after season.
MLT is always welcoming new youth actors who want to join the cast of the next show, with registration for workshops and performances available on mltlive.org.