Brampton Music Theatre’s Youth Troupe is a fun and encouraging introduction to theatre. This isn’t drama class at school, where you have all year to develop. It’s boot camp; three times a week for three months. At the end you are putting on a show to a real audience, in a real theatre, with real lights, real mikes and no time to pinch yourself. It’s surreal.

Since February, a cast of 40 youths between the ages of seven and 17 have been preparing a junior rendition of the 60’s musical Bye Bye Birdie. Now, as they stand in full costume, centre stage, at Lester B. Pearson Theatre in Brampton’s Bramalea Civic Centre, they are excited that opening night is upon them.

In today’s world where make-believe is considered juvenile, it’s fun to let loose and be a kid again, to play dress-up and pretend. These youngsters now possess the power of self expression. They are keen to push their personal limits, ready to unlock their potential. According to life lessons, it takes 40 days to break old manners and 90 days to assimilate new habits. Is it a coincidence that BMT’s Youth Troupe programmes are 90 day programs?

“If anything goes not according to plan, remain in character and solve the problem in character,” final directions being given will, in the near future, translate to “Keep calm and carry on,” and “Always be professional.” Though preparing for Bye Bye Birdie has been a creative, nurturing and exhilarating endeavour for Youth Troupers, it’s been an equally emotional roller coaster for their Artistic Director, Steven Santos Botelho.

Steven has been with Brampton Music Theatre, first at centre stage as a singer/performer, and now backstage as a Director with Youth Troupe. When asked which makes him smile most, “I’d be happy with either, but I love directing; I’m meant to be directing.” And the Youth Troupe concurs with the applause and cheers they share during teary-eyed final notes at dress rehearsal.

To direct Youth Troupe, you have to have a lot of patience,” Steven explains. “Kids can only do what they can bring. They can only do their best, and this Troupe has worked really hard. There’s so much talent on stage, it’s incredible to see how far they have come. From when they first started to now, it’s changed, it’s changed so much!”

This is where BMT’s true talent shines; designing programming that encourages kids to play while learning the business of play. They provide a safe haven that allows these kids to be fearless; to go somewhere in persona they have never gone before. Their rules are few; memorize your lines, learn your choreography, synchronize with others, respect cues and be dependant on each other. Fundamentals are the building blocks of fun. Life should be so simple.

Steven is amazed by how they have learned that ‘showtime’ is ‘show’ time. “Once they come into the theatre, a switch comes on. In studio, during rehearsals, they are kids. But here on stage, they’re young professionals. It is the power of BMT; it’s the love for what they are doing on stage with newly found friends, the love for what is happening backstage as well as out front. This is their family; this is where they want to be, and the audience is what fuels them to do better.”

Help fuel Brampton’s youth. There are audience seats still available.

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