By Emily Wolfe Explore Big Sky Managing Editor

BIG SKY – Local musical theater is growing, thanks in large part to a dedicated group of students and community members led by Barbara Rowley and John Zirkle.

The two are the brawn behind Big Sky Broadway, which they founded five years ago as a theater camp for local kids and is now growing to accommodate high school students for the first time this year, with an April 16 production of Cinderella.

The camps and productions are fun for the actors and viewers, says Rowley, the producer, and the programming also has an educational component to it.

“When anybody gets onstage for rehearsal or audition, John approaches it from an educational angle,” she said, referring to Zirkle, who is the Warren Miller Performing Arts Center Artistic Director and also the director for Big Sky Broadway.

Rowley says the kids learn life skills through the Big Sky Broadway productions.

“You’re not just trying to teach them to be performers on stage, you’re giving them the skills to operate as leaders in the world,” she said. “That’s what they really take away – body position, eyes, voice modulation, diction… Those are the things when you interview someone [for a job], it makes a difference.”

The program’s only fundraiser, the Big Sky’s Got Talent show, is coming up on Friday, April 4, with a variety of Broadway-themed acts to include dance, duets, piano solos and adult singers Sarah Phelps Griffiths and John Dobson, Rowley said.

Zirkle loves seeing people on stage.

“A talent show is our modern day vaudeville idea, a variety show,” said Zirkle, who will emcee the third annual talent show with Rowley. “We say to the kids and people in the community, ‘What do you really want to do? What excites you?’ and then we celebrate that. It’s a showcase of what Big Sky has to offer.”

In years past, Big Sky’s Got Talent has raised between $2,000-$3,000, Rowley said.

The event will help support its signature summer kids programming, as well as the musical theater programs for Lone Peak High School kids, Cinderella. Because there is no tuition charge for the high school program, Big Sky Broadway depends on these funds plus ticket sales to pay for things like staffing, costumes, production rights, music software and video, Rowley said.

“People like to see the kids and adults they know taking the risk and the challenge of going out and entertaining their fellow community members,” Rowley said. “From the audience perspective, I think it’s a good time.”

Big Sky’s Got Talent will be held April 4, starting at 6:30 p.m. at the Warren Miller Performing Arts Center. With 10-12 five-minute acts, the show will last approximately an hour. There will be an art reception beforehand, exhibiting artwork from Big Sky School District Art Teacher Jolene Hegness.

Tickets for Big Sky Broadway productions are available through warrenmillerpac.org.