Owner, Founder, and Artistic Director of The Studio Performing Arts Center, P.K. Van Voorhees, says the East Lansing-based dance and theater company hasn’t put on a performance since January 2020, due to the pandemic. In typical years, the company puts on three to five performances a year.
“It has been a challenge for our dancers to keep their skills up during 2020 and much of 2021 taking Zoom lessons in their 5 x 5 foot bedrooms or something,” Van Voorhees said. “Last year, in April 2021, most of them made it back into the studio, and they have been able to be in the studio since then. I applaud them for continuing to hone their skills throughout this crisis. Their perseverance has been so heartening to see.”
Van Voorhees creates, writes, directs and choreographs most of the shows, which are usually original pieces. She spoke with ELi about the upcoming performance, The Magical Toyshop, which was taken from a 1919 ballet, La Boutique Fantasque, by Leonide Massine, a Russian dancer and choreographer.
Van Voorhees explained that they kept most original elements, but modernized it, added a narrator, extra characters, and a surprise ending. The show spans two days in the life of a Toymaker and Narrator (voiced by Bobby Maldonado) and his Assistant (played by Christopher Smith), who have a shop full of beautiful dolls and toys: Italian dolls, baby dolls, spinning tops, a mechanical peacock, harlequin clowns, dancing poodles, cancan dancers, toy soldiers and the like.
Customers (Hannah Hipkiss, Hailey Penticoff, Rebekah Smith, and Nella Alward), a family (Marty Alward, Bethany Sherman, Briella Fase) and two ladies (Sienna Frost and Danielle Jenson) enter the shop looking for gifts and fight over the dolls. At night it turns out the dolls are actually alive, and shenanigans ensue.
“The show is a bit fantastical in it’s approach and telling, but it is a fun escape into an improbable world of a magical toyshop with alive toys, and we all need that right now,” Van Voorhees said. “Plus it’s funny and fun!”
The cast of local dancers and actors includes 25 people, with ages ranging from five years old to 60. In addition to the aforementioned actors, the dancers are: Fiona Magyar (Peacock), Lisa Kong (Queen of Spades), Alyssa Forsyth (Queen of Hearts), Maddisen Muncaster (The Golden Goose), Annie Larzelere, Maggie Liang, Savannah Frey and Arianna Forsyth (Harlequins), Riley Thomas-Darling and Meigan Starr (the French Couple), Callie Muncaster, Dylan Lovegrove, Ellia Holm, Kailey Holm, Kiyoka Humphrey, Maddie Rose Snyder, Margaret Trowbridge, Phillipa Trowbrige (Poodles/Baby Dolls). Additional Choreography and scene direction by Elizabeth Caitlin Williams.
The cast, crew, and director are excited to be able to put on this upcoming performance, after a difficult two years.
“The arts are important always for the community and a balm for civilization,” Van Voorhees told ELi. “Artistic expression is vital to any thriving culture. A famous saying is ‘without the arts we lose our humanity.’ No civilized community can exist without the arts and the arts and music make us feel better.”
Van Voorhees said she’s grateful the organization made it through the pandemic, but it’s not over yet, and their vulnerability is still being felt.
“We need the community’s support and it’s time for people to stop watching TV at home and see a live show again,” she said.
The Magical Toyshop has a performance on Friday, March 4 at 7 p.m. and Saturday, March 5 at 2 p.m. at Hannah Community Center. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased online or at the door 30 minutes prior to showtime. The show is suitable for audiences 5 years and up. Masks are required, per the City of East Lansing’s policies.