Qatar Foundation’s SHOWTIME! revives musical theater in the country
The Qatar Foundation Schools production SHOWTIME! – returning in March – has inspired a resurgence in musical theater in Doha, encouraging a new generation of singers, actors, and dancers to take to the stage.
And Director Chris Piper is back, bringing with him a wealth of experience in theater, television, and film – having worked on West End shows such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Matilda.
Explaining how the aim of the first show, planned in 2020 but delayed because of COVID-19, was for it to become an annual event, Piper says it has served as a driving force behind the revival of musical theater in Qatar. “After school performing arts clubs have started to run through staff that were involved in SHOWTIME! initially, causing a sort of snowball effect in Doha – with the production serving as a foundation.
“There is an incredible amount of opportunity within the performing arts sphere here, and SHOWTIME! has stirred things up – it has lit a fire of inspiration. It’s wonderful seeing such a thirst for it. It has had such positive impact on the people involved – it means so much to them – so it feels like a truly worthwhile project.”
A clear indication of its popularity is the number of children taking part. This year, more than 260 students from a number of Qatar Foundation (QF) Pre-University Education (PUE) schools auditioned – including returning students as well as first-time participants – with the production set to feature 50 students and 15 staff members.
But musical theatre is more than just singing, dancing, and acting. “It isn’t just a fun and exciting extracurricular activity; it imbues and embeds so much more, like confidence and discipline. There's so much more to it than just getting on stage,” says Piper.
“It can help stretch children beyond their abilities, or beyond what they think their limits are. I see people in auditions who are shy and afraid to try things, but as they progress through the rehearsals, they begin learning so much about themselves. And this increases their confidence and helps them overcome challenges.
“And even if they don't go into performing arts, this has an impact in other areas of their life –allowing them to push themselves and exceed their own expectations. I think it's a really fun and social way to increase so many life skills. Also, this year we have different QF schools coming together, so students and staff members are meeting new people and forming new friendships.”
This year, the theme of SHOWTIME! is “Musicals at the Movies”, with the numbers being from either award-winning musical films or musicals that have been adapted from award-winning films. Additionally, original song “Now or Never”, by Qatari composer Dana Al Fardan, will debut in English and Arabic.
“Everything has been elevated this year,” Piper says. “The chorographic challenges have been heightened, there is more detailed singing, and the harmonies are being stretched. I think the quality of the show has gone up a level, and I’m really excited for people to see this new incarnation of it.
“SHOWTIME! is making an impact, and it's making a difference. And it's amazing to see this – from when we initially came over in 2019 for auditions and not knowing if there'd be an appetite to the juggernaut that it has become.”
SHOWTIME! is taking place from 2 – 4 March in the PUE Theater in Education City. Tickets, costing QAR150, are available for purchase from Q Tickets.
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