Musical looking for some amazing kids

It's not amazing just yet, but Joseph and his Technicolor Dreamcoat are getting warmed up.

The inaugural show at the city's new Scotiabank Convention Centre starts May 30, and among the first steps is finding talented kids. Lots of them.

And as producer Linus Hand knows full well, that's never easy. Some kids can sing, others can dance. But how many can sing, dance and act?

"In a three-week rehearsal period, you can't really teach the kids to act," he says.

"Unlike a school show or community theatre where they take six months to prepare, we take three to four weeks to prepare because we're paying professional actors. When you bring the kids in, they better be a quick study."

The problem became apparent for Hand while casting the Silver Mist production of Seussical three years ago. The show needed 20 small children, and Hand had his associate producer scout every local school for talent.

The verdict? Pickings were slim (though every parent will insist their kid is perfect for the part).

The solution? Offer the kids training.

The Silver Mist Drama Academy was the result, giving regional kids acting lessons taught by professionals from Mirvish Productions, the Shaw Festival and Stratford Festival. It didn't guarantee them a part, Hand insists. But it prepared them for the process and let casting directors know they were serious.

"As part of their classes, they will actually audition for the show whether they want in or not. It's for the experience of auditioning."

The academy has since played a crucial role in casting kids for productions of High School Musical 2 and Scrooge, and will be needed again for Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, being staged by the newly named Golden Horseshoe /Silver Mist.

Classes start at Laurie Ewarts Danceworks on Kent Ave. Jan. 30 and run for eight sessions, with a Presentation Day and audition. Among the instructors will be Ramona Gilmour, who played Loonette on the children's show The Big Comfy Couch.

The lavish show requires 45 children to go along with 18 professional actors and a school choir.

Directed by Sandy Thorburn, it will be the first production in the convention centre's 1,000- seat theatre. It runs May 30 to June 20.

Hand has already bought the costumes and set, which will be delivered this weekend.

Though enrolling in the academy is an asset, ultimately the director, musical director and choreographer will decide the cast. But the academy offers intangibles beyond acting tips.

"They'll learn how to present themselves better," Hand says.

"We point out to the parents, we're not going to turn (kids) into the next Meryl Streep or Al Pacino, but it does give the kids an enormous amount of confidence as far as presenting projects at school, interviewing for a job.

"If they're able to do this, everything else seems that much easier."

Musical looking for some amazing kids