Mecca Productions theater lights on

Mecca’s performers, who will return to the West Manitoba Centennial Auditorium for the first time in more than 18 months in November of this year, are excited.

A life without the ability to run and unite during COVID-19 was a challenging and isolated time for the Mecca team, said performer and stagehand Tianabas Conceros. The group’s latest work, All Together Now, marks a welcome return for performers and a cohort of friends.

“This is our fun passion project we come here to create with each other,” said Vasconcelos. “Last year was a real hit.”

Prior to COVID-19, Mecca members were always busy rehearsing for the next stage performance. It was refreshing to prepare for the many shows that took place throughout the year. This includes autumn community musicals, spring community musicals and kids shows, dramas and other small shows that accompany Christmas and spring concerts.

The year before the pandemic, Mecca boasted a roster of approximately 115 performers enrolled in their craft-polishing classes on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday nights and Saturday mornings.

“Before COVID, my calendar was very full and there were many nights and weekends for classes and performances,” said performer and music director Catherine McFarlane. “My calendar was pretty empty during COVID.”

When COVID-19 first hit, they were working to put together the play Spamalot. It was fun to rehearse the community musicals together, McFarlane said, adding that it was a difficult decision to stop the show due to the safety and public health orders required by COVID-19.

It was shrinking for the group when they were forced to cancel Spamalott, but starting the All Together Now rehearsal cheered up the performers.

“As soon as we sat down on the music, it really felt good,” said Bass Concellos.

The cohort has played together for countless hours over the years, and this has built up essential trust among the members, she said. This allows you to take risks and take your skills to the next level.

When they started the first major production rehearsal since March 2020, they could feel the trust and care of the room. Bass Conceros described it as a special experience made possible by their working in harmony.

“There was a moment when I caught myself and thought,’This feels normal,’ except with a facial mask and … not hugging,” McFarlane said. “It feels good.”

As a close group of performers and friends, many Mecca members have shared the stage for over a decade. At that time, they have built a strong friendship.

The loss of these face-to-face connections was stabbed as sharply as the theater stage darkened in Brandon, said performer and stagehand Hannah Price.

She said she didn’t sing much after the pandemic because she wasn’t as happy to sing herself as she was singing with her friends.

“This is what I want to do, and not being able to do it for that 18 months was really, really difficult,” Price said. She described the experience as part of her identity being stripped without warning. “I was just radiating energy [after the recent rehearsal].. I was radiating energy like excitement after the rehearsal so that people would come back by singing again. ”

The hardest part of COVID-19 is spending a good time with friends, locked out of a Friday night hangout session before the show.

Performer Clint McLachlan said he experienced an emotional crescendo when the pandemic first closed the state. It was a challenge that we couldn’t unite, and as the moon went on, they really wanted to play and practice together.

It was difficult to stay motivated because it wasn’t clear when to share the song again.

MacFarlane said it is working hard to stay connected as a music community and classes are available online for students.

“If you’ve ever tried to do something musical with Zoom, it’s really rewarding. You can’t do anything in sync,” she said with a laugh. “I couldn’t play the piano and let the students sing because the pianos weren’t lined up in a row.”

They found a creative way to celebrate music, but singing directly was terribly missed.

She combined music with creativity and added that many of the members working together are an important part of their mental health and well-being.

According to McFarlane, in September the Mecca Community Choir was able to wear masks and socially distantly gather at Rideau Park to sing along. For many, when they began to sing their eyes filled with tears together, as they missed the power to connect together in harmony.

At the first rehearsal of All Together Now, Vasconseros said he was “feeling like a kid before Christmas” and was mentally preparing for the rally all day long.

“It was a very moving day and it was wonderful,” said Bass Conceros.

She said with a laugh that returning to the studio was like riding a rusty bike. For many, using their voice in a communal space was like exercising for the first time in two years. It tired people’s body and throat. But at the same time, they felt uplifted and excited to unite again.

I’m especially grateful to see everyone singing all at once as I can’t play after 2020.

It was a great feeling to be back in the show preparation headspace, Price said.

“When I’m rehearsing, I have to work hard to focus on what I’m doing, and I really have to think about what I’m doing and how I’m doing it. No. It really felt like a really comfortable and welcoming home, “Price said.

The teams have a great deal of trust in each other and know that they are supported, so everyone can feel comfortable and ready to take on new challenges. This helped take their performance to the next level, according to Price.

“When we started singing together in harmony, I honestly went home and thought my friends had never made such a good sound,” McFarlane said. “It was music in my ears.”

McLachlan reaffirmed what the group could do together, adding that it feels good to play together after a long break.

“It’s still there, we still got it. It feels good,” McLachlan said.

According to Vasconseros, setting goals has changed the dynamics of the group. This is because the finish line is visible in All Together Now. Rehearsals are planned weekly, with dedicated time for the show to launch songs and production staging from Tuesday to Thursday night.

“We will go at full speed until the show,” said Bass Conceros.

According to Price, the West Manitoba Centennial Auditorium is like the second home of many Mecca members, as it has hosted multiple performances in the space for years. They are eagerly looking forward to being on the stage again.

“I’m thinking of opening that door for the first time and coming in again … crying, very excited, or I’m focused on what we have to do, so I don’t even recognize it “Price said. “In any case, I know it will certainly be a moment.”

Vasconseros added that just thinking about entering the auditorium would fill his whole body with a stimulating tingle. The Mecca team spends countless hours both on stage and in the gut of the building to prepare for various productions, for a total of several years.

They are excited to reunite with the Westman Auditorium crew as they have played a vital role in helping each Mecca’s production succeed.

“It will certainly be a moment to remember,” Vasconcelos said with a smile.

During Show Week, they’re in the auditorium from the moment they finish their work, McFarlane said, flying to the stage with food for performers and hair and makeup after a brief supper so they can rehearse. Hurry up to get ready. Become a community hub for your team and feel like a huge family.

Featuring 18 performers, All Together Now marks a break from typical Mecca production.

The show presents 15 selections from a variety of musicals in cabaret-style concerts. According to Vasconseros, this route was chosen because it was able to incorporate a variety of sounds and performances.

Released by licensing company Musical Theater International, All Together Now is particularly exciting because of similar performances around the world. Each troupe can choose from a variety of options for each song number.

At Mecca, performers sat as a team and carefully selected and produced each set piece to ensure a solid flow of sound and songs that complement each other.

Some are solo, while others are performed in small groups.

MacFarlane sings Stop the World from production Come from Away in a duet with Ken Stelmack. She said this was an exciting piece because the community theater groups didn’t yet have access to Come from Away. Stop the World has been specially released for the All Together Now review.

Vasconcelos plays Thoroughly Modern Millie’s Gimme Gimme Gimme.

Prices are featured in many songs from the show. Her favorite is the new world of Jason Robert Brown’s musical “Songs for the New World.” She described it as a powerhouse of songs with intricate parts and finally a loud, exciting sound.

McLachlan sings an empty chair at an empty table in the musical “Les Miserables”. He appeared on the show eight years ago and the song continues to be one of his favorites.

All Together Now features one number featuring the entire cast of 18 people, carefully choreographed to comply with COVID-19 Public Health Measures. The Mecca team wears a mask and appears on the set together, and at the last moment removes the cover of the song’s face.

MacFarlane added that this abundant attention extends to the attendance of the audience. All guests must have vaccination proof, remain masked and attendance is limited to 190 people. The entire auditorium can accommodate an audience of 800 people.

Vasconseros said performers and spectators have different sensations, but will create a more intimate experience. She added that she missed out on interacting with the audience.

They closely monitor public health orders and allow production to shift as needed in the event of changes.

“It feels like a very unstable ground for us, but we were able to adapt really well,” said Bass Conceros. “I hope things can move forward in the way we can imagine.”

Vasconseros said knowing the constant changes and uncertainties the group is facing is deep in their hearts as they prepare for the Big Show.

“We can handle almost anything … Given all the adjustments we’ve made over the last year and a half, and what we’ve grasped on the fly, we’re all together to figure out what’s going to happen. We are confident that we can move our plans forward as we do now, “McFarren said. “I’m thrilled to think I can play for my family, friends and community.”

All Together Now will take place at 7:30 pm on November 13th and 3:30 pm on November 14th at the West Manitoba Centennial Auditorium. To purchase a ticket, please visit or call the auditorium ticket office at 204-728-9510.


┬╗Twitter: @The_ChelseaKemp

Mecca Productions theater lights on

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