The Belmont Theatre

The Belmont Theatre, formerly known as York Little Theatre, will start the holiday season off with a bang with their annual family-centered musical for 2016, “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”.

Although this is a show not often done on stage, it is a “really fun family-themed musical,” said Lyn Bergdoll, executive director of The Belmont Theatre.

The “Little Theatre Movement” started during the Great Depression; people knew “little” meant community. Community theatres performed their own shows with local people compared to traveling shows. Bergdoll said that after many decades, “the connotation of little theatres has changed”.

“Renaming the theatre after Belmont St. pays tribute to all people who have been here through the years,” said Bergdoll.

The theatre was founded as York Little Theatre during the depression in 1933, and the building on 27 S. Belmont St. was bought in 1953. Between 1933 and 1953, performances were done on multiple local stages. In recent years the Main Stage auditorium and the more intimate performance room, The Studio, underwent renovations. These are not the only new fresh details of the theatre.

Two new LED digital billboards are anchored on the exterior sides of the theatre, and “The Belmont” is displayed in neon lights seen from the highway.

As The Belmont Theatre is adding to their exterior appeal, they expect to go beyond expectations in their holiday musical as well. “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” presented multiple challenges, one being the task to create a life-sized car that moves and seems to be flying with just the push of a button.

Brian Gilbert, lead actor in “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”, playing Caractacus Potts, said that singing with the heavy accent is the toughest part of the performance. This is his second show at The Belmont Theatre, previously appearing in “Side Show”.

Gilbert said, “Working for so long before actually getting all the set built is the biggest challenge for the cast.”

“Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” also includes both a large adult and children cast. Bergdoll believes that this is also beneficial because it is a big opportunity for both adults and children to work with such a diverse cast.

Autumn Mallory, a junior accounting major at York College, thinks that the children have put in a lot of hard work and that the audience will love them. She is also excited to see the car because it has been a long process but sure to be incredible.

Not only is there a large cast to work with, but seven dogs as well.

During the performance of the song Toots Sweets, individual dogs are being trained to run to and jump on each technical dancer. This is a difficult trick to learn because many of the dogs have been strongly trained against running and jumping up on people.

Jay Aburn, a 2009 sport management York College graduate, has worked with Rene Staub, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang director, for the past 12 years. This is Aburn’s fourth and favorite performance at the theatre in York. “It’s one of those shows that bring together all generations,” said Aburn.

Aburn’s favorite aspect of the show is seeing that the older generation can watch a show that they loved as kids. He loves bringing “classics” to the stage.

The biggest challenge for this musical is the singing; Aburn said that because the musical is fully orchestrated, but there is no live orchestra, the timing is crucial. “There’s no room for error. We have to be perfect.”

Some dance moves done in this musical are those also seen in the original movie to include the definitive parts of dances such as Me Ol’ Bamboo and Toots Sweets. The Bombie Samba dance is in the musical adaptation but not in the original film version. The dancers collectively think that this dance is fun for the reason that it is humorous, dramatic and a partner dance. “There are not a lot of shows where you get to partner dance, and when there is one it is such a fun opportunity,” said Aburn.

The dates of the performance are Nov. 18-20 and 25-27. Friday and Saturday shows will start at 7:30 p.m., and 3 p.m. on Sundays. An additional show at 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 26 has been added.


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