Finding the balance

South Surrey’s Emma Schellenberg is learning the ropes of musical theatre in Theatre Under The Stars production

Emma Schellenberg seems to be in something of a time warp in her most recent forays onto the stage.

“I seem to be stuck in the 1920s,” the triple-threat 2015 Earl Marriott grad – who has just completed her second year in the musical theatre program at Capilano University – admitted in a recent between-rehearsals phone interview with Peace Arch News.

Schellenberg, 20, will be is one of the ensemble acting, singing and dancing up a storm – Gatsby-era style – tonight (Friday) as Theatre Under The Stars previews The Drowsy Chaperone (running in tandem with Mary Poppins until Aug. 19 at Malkin Bowl in Vancouver’s Stanley Park).

Her first semi-professional show, it follows closely on the heels of her last chorus assignment, as one of the flappers in Capilano’s Exit 22 production of Thoroughly Modern Millie in March.

“I’m seriously considering cutting my hair in a bob,” Schellenberg laughed.

Not that she’s complaining.

“It’s an incredible era to play – I love it,” she enthused.

In The Drowsy Chaperone, a fantasy parody/pastiche of an elaborate 1928 stage musical – with wry narration by ‘The Man In The Chair’ (five-time Jessie Award winner Shawn Macdonald), a reclusive vintage musical buff obsessively playing one of his rare original cast albums to a captive audience – Schellenberg has ample opportunity to play a multitude of parts.

“I’m a wedding guest, a servant to the Empress (of China) – I’m even a monkey in one scene,” she noted.

But her favourite assignment in the show, she said, is as one of the ‘wing girls’ in an extravagant wedding number that takes place on an aeroplane.

“It’s sort of like being a flight attendant – only with a lot more tapping,” she chuckled.

Local audiences will likely recall her from Marriott shows including The Music Man, Ash Girl and How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying – in which she made the most of a flashy gift role as bombshell Hedy LaRue.

Not originally committed to going on the boards as a career, she has discovered that she can balance academic studies (she got into Capilano on a full scholarship) – and her part-time day gig as barista and cashier at Murchies in Semiahmoo Centre – with a fast-growing love for musical theatre.

“I love watching how everything comes together to create a show; how the music combines with the acting and dance,” she said.

“And, because it’s live, every audience gets a unique show. They’re part of the ingredients of each one; how they react and how the actors feed off that.”

She comes by her fondness for the medium honestly. Her mom, Bev, an English and musical theatre teacher at Earl Marriott, has served as vocal director of the school’s famously ambitious and successful musicals for decades.

“I grew up in the theatre,” she said. “My mom tells me I was coming to rehearsals, literally, when I was in utero.

Schellenberg said she has fond memories of working on her high school shows with Marriott theatre program head Candace Radcliffe and frequent choreographer Carol Seitz.

The Marriott connection is strong, too, in her post-secondary theatre work – fellow Marriott grads McKenzie Claus and Hunter Golden are also studying at Capilano; while former Mariner Kerry O’Donovan was the musical director of Thoroughly Modern Millie, and one of his classmates, Keri Minty, is choreographing for TUTS.

Schellenberg said she’s immensely grateful for the support of her mom and dad, Doug, and siblings Jared, 17 and Tiana, five.

And she’s loving the experience of being part of the TUTS company this year.

“It really has opened my eyes to how professional theatre works, once you’re doing this for a living. Whether the players are Equity performers or non-Equity performers there’s a really cool balance of professionalism and having fun – right now I’m still trying to figure out that balance, where the fun is, and the right time to focus.

“I think this is my life – this is something I can really see myself doing,” she said.

For tickets and ticket information call the TUTS box office at 1-877-840-0457 or visit

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