Mount Baker Theatre features its first local production

Published on Wed, Sep 21, 2011 by Dawn Groves

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Blaine’s own Quinn Wiebe has been cast in the Mount Baker Theatre Repertory’s first locally produced production, “Into the Woods” by Stephen Sondheim. A ten-year resident of Blaine and graduate of Ferndale High School, Wiebe’s acting portfolio includes “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,” “Beauty & The Beast,” “Kiss Me Kate,” “Oliver,” “Perfectly Frank,” and “Brigadoon.”

 “Into The Woods” is a modern musical parable built around characters from Grimm’s fairy tales – Little Red Riding Hood, Jack (of Jack and the Beanstalk), Rapunzel and Cinderella. Billed as “what happens after happily-ever-after,” the story follows these beloved characters as they help a baker make a difference in his neighborhood.

Playing Rupunzel’s prince in this highly anticipated production, Wiebe is one of several local actors who will have a rare opportunity to share a stage with actors who have performed all over the country. The lead characters are from major national tours, with local talent in supporting roles.

 “I remember as a child going to the Mount Baker Theatre to watch movies and then, after its renovation, I wanted to perform onstage there,” Wiebe said.

“It wasn’t that long ago when we were just an aging movie palace showing $1 movies,” said Brad Burdick, executive director of MBT. “Now we’re a thriving performing arts center with three performance spaces, and we’re ready to successfully produce our own main stage musicals!”

MBT’s transformation from having tour buses and trucks stop for a day to producing an entire production was a long time coming, Burdick explains. “The board spent last year developing a new long- range strategic plan, and local productions moved higher up on the priority list. Because we’ve had a string of successful seasons both on the main stage and in the Walton Theatre with our summer and winter rep productions, the board agreed it was time to give a production like this a try. We finally decided to go ahead when WWU’s Mark Kuntz agreed to serve as director. He’s done such a great job with all the other rep theaters, that it all just seemed to fall into place.”

The MBT’s foray into soup-to-nuts local production brings new details and considerations, Burdick said. “We had to line up a very high quality team to take care of all the production details, including set design and construction, lighting design, secure the professional orchestra and actors, getting the rights to the show for the run and selling six shows instead of just one or two. This show will also use extensive video special effects and images, so we had to design each of these looks as well.”

Despite its larger scope, Burdick insists there are several advantages to a local, professional production. “We control quality,” he says. “The sets can be more elaborate and can be designed specifically for our stage. The “Into the Woods” set will have a unique path surrounding the orchestra pit allowing performers to get within a few inches of the first row patrons. The pit will contain all the musicians but it will also double as a pond in the woods.” In addition, the stage floor will be raked (taller in the back than in the front) to allow better visibility and enhance the depth of the production. “All of these things are just not possible with the one-night shows that come through,” he said.

“It is so much fun to see the entire staff being creative and taking on all of these new things,” Burdick continued. “We’re all pitching in and trying to come up with ideas to help make sure everything goes smoothly. I’ve got a great staff, and it’s nice to see them being successful with this new activity.”

Burdick and Wiebe are both anticipating strong local support. “We’re sticking our toe into the water of self-producing with this show. I’m convinced it’s going to be one of the best productions we’ve ever had here at MBT,” Burdick said.

Wiebe concurred. “I’ve always thought ‘Into the Woods’ needed to come to Whatcom County. It is one of Broadway’s best shows with an amazing storyline for all ages and the brilliant music of Stephen Sondheim,” he said.

 “Into the Woods” show times are as follows: Wednesday, October 5, 7:30 p.m.; Thursday, October 6, 7:30 p.m.; Friday, October 7, 8 p.m., Saturday, October 8, 3 p.m. and 8 p.m.; Sunday, October 9, 3 p.m.

Tickets for the show range from $10 to $45 plus applicable fees and can be purchased by calling 360/734-6080 or visiting www.mountbakertheatre.com.