‘The Secret Garden’ is this year’s musical

The Missoula Children’s Theatre returns to Idyllwild School for an intensive week of play production utilizing students from kindergarten through 8th grade. In five days of rehearsal, a magical transformation occurs — from the bare bones of a rehearsal studio, where auditions are conducted on the first day, to a full production on the Idyllwild School stage that opens the evening of the fifth day. Missoula Children’s Theatre team members Erin Norlie and Alex Kowalchik will work with the students in 4-hour rehearsal blocks for each of the five rehearsal days to produce the popular, “The Secret Garden.” This is a musical version of the familiar children’s story commissioned for the theater group.


Missoula Children’s Theatre production team Alex Kowalchik and Erin Norlie.
Missoula Children’s Theatre production team Alex Kowalchik and Erin Norlie. Photo by Marshall Smith

Missoula Children’s Theatre, the largest nonprofit children’s theater production company in the United States, brings it all — sets, costumes, scripts, music and two resident actor/directors to fashion a complete musical production. Students who are cast must learn lines, songs, dances and blocking (where they are on stage at any point in time).


The results, judging from last year’s show, are spectacular. A polished production takes the boards after only 20 hours of rehearsal, something that even most adult actors could not accomplish.

“Our shows are specifically designed to make use of all students, so that every age group gets a good showing,” Kowalchik said. “They’re structured so that up to 64 students can be in a particular production. It depends on how many audition in any tour location. The most we’ve had were 151 kids and the least 29.”

Missoula Children’s Theatre teams are on the road much of the year, in a different town every week, working with the local organization that has engaged the group, in this case the Idyllwild School PTA. “Next week we’re in South Lake Tahoe.” Kowalchik and Norlie got off to a resounding start with very energetic auditions that began at 3 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 5.

Performances take place at the Idyllwild School gymnasium 6 p.m. Friday, Nov. 9, and 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 10. Tickets are $10 for adults, $7 for seniors, and $5 for children. Doors open 30 minutes prior to show time. Tickets are sold in the school’s office and at the door, prior to each performance, as a means of recovering the $3,000 cost of this PTA program.

At left, Erin Norlie warms up Idyllwild School students prior to the beginning of auditions. Photo by Marshall Smith