Medicine Hat Musical Theatre had its beginnings in 1960. The first President was the late, Henry Allergoth. Under the auspices of a group of interested citizens, the first production was staged in 1961. The show was “Oklahoma!” directed by Richard Mells, and was a rousing success. Since that time, countless local drama enthusiasts have given freely of their time and talents to make musical theatre one of Medicine Hat’s most durable and successful community endeavors.
Medicine Hat Musical Theatre was incorporated under the Societies Act December 17, 1962. However, the success of its beginning is attributed to members of the community who offered their support. Thanks to the Dederer family, movies were cancelled in order that the “Oklahoma” performances could take place at the Towne Theatre. In addition, the following community members offered their financial support, which made it all possible.
Taken from "Archives Access: In the Limelight Issue" 2010 Edition
The creation of Medicine Hat Musical Theatre in 1961 helped to re-invigorate the local theatre scene. Henry Allergoth and Richard Mells were instrumental in starting this group. Allergoth, a drama teacher at Medicine Hat High, had been active in the Civic Theatre organization and wanted to form a musical theatre group. Richard Mells had emigrated from New Zealand and while teaching in a small town in Saskatchewan, introduced musical theatre in the high school there. He began teaching at Alexandra Junuir High and, as he and Allergoth shared an interest in musical theatre, they formed the Medicine Hat Musical Theatre company. Art Heller, who had been involved with musicals at the University of Alberta also took part, along with many other members of the theatre community. The first production was funded by a $1000 loan and 33 patrons who donated $25.00 each. Since that time, Medicine Hat Musical Theatre has maintained itself and helped many other groups.
The first production by the new company was "Oklahoma", performed in February 1961. The show was presented in the Towne Theatre, a movie theatre, as there was no longer a theatre designed for live performances in Medicine Hat. This facility presented many problems as there was no backstage space, no wing space, no loft, no makeup or dressing rooms, and no stage lighting. In addition, movies were shown in the theatre all week and so preparation of scenes and the dress rehearsal of the production had to be done on Sunday. Large tractor trailers were parked in the Alberta Motor Association building parking lot beside the theatre, and the offices of the AMA were used as dressing rooms. Entrances to the stage were made from an outside door and performers often had to run outside to get from one side of the stage to the other. Despite these daunting conditions, many successful musicals were produced from 1961 to 1969, averaging 600 people at each of 44 performances.
In 1971, Musical Theatre moved to the new Medicine Hat College theatre which had much better facilities for musicals. The company continued to produce one musical per year, usually in the fall.
Over the years this volunteer group has made an important contribution to the life of Southern Alberta with a succession of popular musical productions Jamie Portman, Medicine Hat News
There is no doubt that Medicine Hat Musical Theatre filled a void in the theatre world of Medicine Hat. Jamie Portman, in a review in the Medicine Hat News, stated that "over the years this volunteer group has made an important contribution to the life of Southern Alberta with a succession of popular musical productions." It offered an opportunity to many young people who would not have otherwise had the chance to experience full scale theatre. Many residents experienced musical theatre only as provided by Medicine Hat Musical Theatre. In addition, the group lent lights, set pieces and costumes to other performing groups in the city. One of its goals was to further cultural development in individuals so it provided substantial scholarship programs to area residents for further theatre, dancing and music study. The Group also helped the Medicine Hat Symphonic Society and the Medicine Hat Civic Theatre with loans to support their programs.
In 1999, Medicine Hat Musical Theatre purchased its own home at 329 North Railway Street S. E. to be used primarily for storage and office space, and by 2005, it had outgrown the site. Through a joint venture agreement with another theatre company, the property at 1221 – 10th Avenue S. W. was purchased and a building was constructed. The building was originally set up with rehearsal, workshop, costume and props storage areas as well as office space. Shortly after taking possession, a proscenium arch was installed, and that theatre space has been and continues to be developed with newer seating and state of the art sound and lighting systems. It should be noted that almost all building and staging improvements, as well as most maintenance, are done by volunteers. The other theatre company moved into their own space and now we are sole operators in the playhouse.
Over the years, such notable individuals as Henry Allergoth, Adele Armstrong, Dorothy Jones, John Komanchuk, E. W. N. “Skip” Macdonald, Ron Miller, Margot Graham-Mack, Peggy Bengert, Brad Neubauer, Bill Cocks, Wayne Craven, and Tom Rooke have directed a wide variety of musicals, ranging from “Li’l Abner” and “Pajama Game”, through “South Pacific”; “The Sound of Music”; “Guys and Dolls”; “Oliver”, “Annie Get Your Gun”; “Where’s Charley?” “Fiddler On the Roof"; “Carousel”; “Hello Dolly”; “Sweet Charity”; “Mame”, “Peter Pan”, “Annie”, “Camelot”, “Cabaret”, and “Jesus Christ SuperStar”. In 1974, the musical “A Fair Price” was commission by Musical Theatre to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the R.C.M.P. In 2001, Musical Theatre celebrated its 40th anniversary with a second presentation of “Annie Get Your Gun”. In 2005, Medicine Hat Musical Theatre produced, “Chicago”, directed by Brandi Cranston, the first community show in The Esplanade. Support for this show was overwhelming.
Until we acquired our own building, Medicine Hat Musical Theatre productions were typically presented in November of each year with auditions calls are generally made in May/June. We have since developed a full season of from four to six shows that take place between September and April/May each year. Auditions are well advertised in advance, and the theatre company welcomes anyone interested to come out and join us. Theatre is an integral part of our community and we welcome all who are interested in being part of this exciting entertainment venue. Throughout its history, numerous members of the community have contributed their time and talents to our productions. Medicine Hat Musical Theatre is indeed an integral part of the culture in Medicine Hat.
Medicine Hat Musical Theatre is a Registered Charity run entirely by volunteers. All net proceeds from all shows are used for the maintenance, upkeep and improvement of the building, improvement to the systems that enable us to support excellent performances, and royalties to obtain rights to shows that are attractive to our audiences.
Medicine Hat Musical Theatre very much appreciates the active support of the citizens of Medicine Hat and surrounding areas, and maintains a policy of returning a portion of its show profits to the community through scholarships, grants and workshops. A $1,000 scholarship is awarded annually to a student registered in a music or dance at the Medicine Hat College. In addition, scholarships in the amount of $300 are provided annually to students at each of the local high schools, including the Eagle Butte High School in Dunmore, AB. Musical Theatre also supports the Rotary Music Festival by sponsoring the Noreen Flanagan Memorial Trophy, the Henry Allergoth Memorial Trophy, the Medicine Hat Musical Theatre Plate and Memento and the Medicine Hat Musical Theatre Scholarship. The Board budgets each year to provide grants and funding assistance to individuals wishing to attend workshops outside the City. (Musical Theatre supports the One Act Drama Festival and assists the local One Act winners to advance to the provincial level.)
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