‘Munsch at Play’ brings beloved authors work to life

Michael Oleksyn/Daily Herald Samantha Gillespie as Angela is in her airplane during rehearsals for Munsch at Play.

The beloved work of Robert Munsch is coming to life on the stage in Prince Albert.

Odyssey Productions presents Munsch at Play, a collection of beloved Munsch plays adapted for the stage. Playwright Irene N. Watts adapted eight of his best loved tales for the stage, with work complemented by illustrations from longtime Munsch collaborator Michael Martchenko.

Odyssey Productions director Trent Gillespie said there was some challenges during the production after a COVID outbreak forced him to be absent for two weeks. He said they’ve taken all the proper precautions to make sure the show goes on.

“We have planned for understudies in the event that something happens, so we have that option anyway. We worked it into the script and everything, and actually tonight one of our guys is not here for another reason,” Gillespie said.

Another cast member stepped in during their rehearsal on Friday night to play Angela’s Dad during the rehearsal at Jam Street.

“It’s not often that this other guy is not here but it is the way the cards are dealt this week,” Gillespie said.

The play includes a number of well known stories by Munsch, including Angela’s Airplane, Stephanie’s Ponytail, and the Paper Bag Princess.

The cast of 11 people includes a mix of children and adults. It’s the first time an Odyssey stage production has had a mixed cast.

“We have only had kid cameos in some plays in the past. This is the first time I made sure I had the youth because it’s a vitality to it,” Gillespie explained. “Anybody here can be young at heart and it brings up the energy of the show.”

Michael Oleksyn/Daily Herald Samantha Gillespie as Angela flew around the stage at Jam Street during rehearsals for Munsch at Play.

The cast includes 12-year-old Samantha Gillespie and 11-year-old Ava Little. Samantha said that the COVID-19 problems were a challenge.

“I was out for a couple of rehearsals too,” she said.

Meanwhile, Little did not miss any time during the cast and crew’s COVID-19 issues.

Both Little and Samantha were calm and collected ahead of the show.

“I have already been in a bunch of plays,” Samantha said.

“I’m used to this too,” Little added.

With such a large cast, everyone had the chance to fill multiple rolls. Some of those roles are speaking, while other involved providing sound effects for the props.

For example, Little is the lights in Angela’s Airplane while Samantha is the main character and Little is Stephanie in Stephanie’s Ponytail while Samantha is a student. Almost every person in the cast had the opportunity to be a narrator, except for Little who was an understudy.

“Everyone has a chance to be in the limelight,” Trent said. “Almost everybody gets a chance to be a narrator and almost everybody gets a chance to have a speaking role.”

With 11 people in the cast that meant a lot of juggling for Gillespie.

“Some schedules were pretty hard but we made it work,” he said. “That’s the best part about theatre it always works out in the end.”

Munsch at Play marks the fifth time Trent has directed a play for Odyssey, but this one emphasizes the interactive element. He hopes the crowds will take advantage of the opportunity to get involved when it’s their turn to do so.

“The play has a little bit of interaction with it too, so sometimes we will get the audience to speak out,” he said. “It’s a little bit of pantomime, I guess.”

The play will be at the Mahon Auditorium in the John M. Cullenaere Public Library from April 28 to May 1. The event is mask friendly. For more information visit www.odysseyproductions.ca.