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By Ron Tal
Special to The PREVIEW
Everybody wants to be an Aristocat!
Come take a trip with the Pagosa Springs Center For The Arts and the Whatchamawhozits Summer Children’s Playcamp to beautiful Paris, and experience the magic only Disney can create.
About 20 kids from the Pagosa Springs Area have spent the last three weeks rehearsing and putting on a live version of the beloved animated classic, “The Aristocats,” and will present it on Saturday, July 20, for one day only.
The time in the Playcamp included three weeks of intense rehearsal and activities to get the children prepared for the big moment on stage. Much of the camp was directed and taught by business professionals who are excited to teach the next generation of actors. All of the counselors — Dana Colagiovanni, Jamie Finkenthal, Steven Sitzman and Ammon K. Swofford — are also in the Thingamajig Theatre Company’s summer productions of “The Full Monty” and “Spamalot,” and they are thrilled to be “passing the torch” and inspiring kids in this small town.
Finkenthal says of working in Pagosa, “It’s wonderful to expose some kids to the arts who might have never gotten that opportunity. Coming from a big city, we take for granted that there are shows playing constantly, but in Pagosa Springs, there are fewer chances to see shows, let alone be in a show. So, it’s exciting for me to see the kids eyes light up and they learn a new form of expression that they can carry with them.”
Disney’s “The Aristocats” tells the tale of a group of well-to-do kittens, living a lavish lifestyle and rubbing elbows with the finest of France. Life is wonderful, until the scheming butler decides that he has had enough of the cats, and drops them off in the rough and tumble world in the big city of Paris. With the help of the street smart Alley Cats, the Aristocats are able to find their revenge on the Butler and all is well. It is a classic tale that is told through a jazz infused score, and a wonderful direction by Colagiovanni, music direction by Sitzman and choreography by Swofford.
Sitzman says of teaching the music, “What’s great is seeing when a child realizes that they can really communicate through song. Suddenly, it’s almost like they have a new language to speak in, and it’s wonderful to watch them light up as the music starts and they get to have fun with a new instrument.”
It looks like the hard work paid off. In addition to working on a fantastic show, the kids and the counselors, as well as Thingamajig Theatre Company’s cast of “Spamalot,” participated in the Fourth of July Parade in downtown Pagosa Springs, and their float won first prize. It’s a testament to the hard work these kids are putting into this summer’s camp.
Laura Moore, executive producer of the Thingamajig Theatre Company, started the Whatchamawhozits Children’s Playcamp as a way to incorporate the community and the youth of Pagosa Springs into the full theatre experience. She has taught kids camps for a while, all over the country, and is so happy that she is able to incorporate the community and the professionals coming to work for her into bringing arts to the masses.
Be sure to come on July 20 to experience the wonderful efforts of the kids and counselors. “The Aristocats” plays Saturday only at the Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts. Tickets are $5 and can be purchased at the door. The show will play at 2 p.m. and again at 3:30.