The West Coast’s Glee Kids are set to rock a live audience for the first time since 2019.
Courtney Johnson co-founded the Glee program in 2012 and said she was thrilled to see the community’s enthusiasm had not wilted during the COVID-19 hiatus. In fact, absence seems to have made local hearts grow even fonder of the program.
“We didn’t know if it would ever come back. I didn’t know if there would be an interest when we decided to do it again,” Johnson told the Westerly News. “I spent 2.5 years of my life wondering if this was something I could ever do again or if the interest was lost and the fact that the interest was overwhelming makes me so happy that it actually moves me to tears when I think about it.”
Over 50 kids from ages 5-14 will be performing Johnson’s original script, How The Grinch Stole The Nightmare before Christmas on Dec. 9 and Dec. 10 at the Ucluelet Community Centre. Doors open at 6 p.m. both nights with the shows starting at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are available in advance at Image West Gallery in Ucluelet and will be available at the door.
“It’s taking two classics and mashing them together. It’s Halloween and Christmas. What’s not to like?” Johnson said. “For The characters of Halloween Town and the Characters of Christmas Town, everything’s become too commercialized, so Cindy Lou from Christmas Town and Sally from Halloween Town end up meeting up and teaching their friends the true meaning of the holidays.”
Johnson said audiences will be amazed by the West Coast’s young, local talent.
“You should be amazed at what these kids can do because they amaze me everyday…It’s always amazing to see what they can pull off,” she said. “Also, they are your community members. They might be little community members, but they’re community members. Support your community…It’s a community event, it brings people together and you get to watch what your next generation is doing and that is really important.”
The cast has been rehearsing in Tofino and Ucluelet since early September.
“They’re great kids,” Johnson said. “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, one of the great things about this program is that people won’t believe how their kids are when they’re not around them…There’s a shift to them and a change for them when they start to see how everything is coming together. They really become something different. They become more confident, they become centred, they become happier and they really work together, which is really great.”
She added this is the first year the Glee has held rehearsals in Tofino and she hopes to expand the program to host productions in Tofino for the first time in the near future.
“A sustainable production in the two communities is something that’s a bit of a dream of mine,” she said. “It’s one of the most important things in the whole wide world to me. I absolutely love what I do. It’s a calling to me to teach these kids and to help them find their voice, however that may be, whether they’re a singer, a dancer or a little actor,” she said. “Or, if it’s just something that they take with them and get other skills from.”
Anyone interested in supporting the Glee program should keep their eyes peeled for fundraisers being held at Image West Gallery throughout December and donations can be made directly to the program by reaching out to Johnson at 250-266-2077.
“Every little bit helps,” Johnson said. “To donate to this program and to keep it going is something that’s really important. There really isn’t a lot like this out here…I want every single kid to have fun, to have a joyful experience, to know that they matter, that they are seen and that they feel happy and they feel comfortable because I know that what they have to show people is important to them. They want to show you what they are doing and what they have learned.”
She added she feels well supported by the community, particularly the program’s volunteers and the district’s parks and recreation team.
“They’re incredibly helpful,” she said. “I do not want people to think that I do not see that. Every little bit of help that is given is seen and greatly, greatly appreciated.”