The Showboat Youtheatre Workshop just wrapped up its first production of the summer, “Under the Sea,” and will start working Monday on its next show, a dance-inspired production set in the 1950’s.
The workshop—located at Adat Ari El, 12020 Burbank Blvd., in Valley Village—has been putting on musical theater productions in the greater Los Angeles region for 36 years. Following the final performance of “Under the Sea,” Patch sat down with Ann Monahan, the founder of Showboat Youtheatre to talk to her about the history of the program and this summer’s productions.
Patch: When did you decide to start the Showboat Youtheatre troop?
Monahan: I had a dance studio and my husband and I had an adult dinner theater called Showboat in Woodland Hills. I started by teaching acting in my dance studio and then I thought, "Let’s do shows." At the time, it was 1975 and no one had ever done shows with children that I knew of. All the adult dancers thought I was out of my mind.
Patch: What made you decide to make shows with children then?
Monahan: I love children. People said, "Shows with children? Aren't they just going to play the children’s parts like in 'The Sound of Music?'" and I said, "They're going to play every part. We'll figure out how to do it."
Patch: How did you "figure it out"?
Monahan: I just teach them as if they're any age. You'd be amazed how sharp children are. They learned this [“Under the Sea”] in seven days, because we missed a day due to the Fourth of July. Kids are amazing.
Patch: How do you get kids to learn the scripts in such a short time?
Monahan: The first day we just do auditions and theater games. After that we start with vocal warm-ups, dance warm-ups and theater warm-ups, and then we practice the song numbers and blocking.
Patch: Who else is involved with putting on the production?
Monahan: I asked Conchita Madrid, who worked with me as an accompanist back when I had the dance studio, if she'd be my musical director, and she said yes. Later, she brought her husband Tony Silva in as the vocal coach. They’re wonderful, as is our entire staff and volunteers.
Patch: What do you think makes Showboat Youtheatre unique?
Monahan: There’s no judging here. Everyone’s treated with respect and support, and that makes a difference. Our first priority is not necessarily to put on a great show, it’s all about teaching values, especially to be kind and supportive of each other. Everyone is the star. We have no divas.
Patch: So, Showboat Youtheatres have been doing shows now for over 35 years. What has changed over the years?
Monahan: There’s more of a nationwide interest in musicals, especially among children and teens. You see more enthusiasm and energy about theater. In the 90’s it wasn’t as cool to be in theater; now much more. A lot of the kids who come to us are huge fans of Glee [the television show].
Patch: What’s the most rewarding part of working on this for you?
Monahan: I love theater. I love children. I love doing it. The kids make friends here, and many stay with the program for 10 years or more. The crew is alumni who graduated from this workshop and come back.
Patch: You just finished the last show of “Under the Sea” and your next show is already starting next week. What can you tell me about it?
Monahan: First of all, I grew up in the 50s, so it’s a period very close to me, obviously. There’s a lot of dancing in the play, which is something I love. The music is great.
Patch: Can kids still sign up to be a part of it?
Monahan: Yes, kids can still sign up. They can come in on Monday or Tuesday and talk to me, if they’re interested.
Patch: Anything else you’d like people to know about Showboat?
Monahan: Someone once told me it’s the summer you never forget, and it’s true. I’ve adopted that as a sort of the motto for the troop. So, if anyone’s looking for something to do with their child, this is where they should be for an unforgettable summer.
For more information on Showboat Youtheatre visit www.showboatyoutheatre.com or call (818) 222—239.