By Rod Urquhart

Back the last time I was in a high school, some 40 years ago, the student Drama Class was putting on Gilbert and Sullivan classics like Oklahoma, My Fair Lady and the Mikado.

How times have changed!

This old solider visited Keswick High School Thursday night for the first of a three-day run of ‘The Greatest Show On Earth’, presented in the Keswick High School cafeteria stage, no less. But, what an extremely delightful evening it was. (I truly wish this stage show had a two week run so I could entice you to take in some excellent theatre work done entirely by the students themselves, with some help from teachers).

The student actors were simply amazing at their young age. The set was quite mobile and presented many different elements, including a running scene, not to mention some black-lighting for effect and a lion cage. On top of this they had a complex digital multi-media presentation  up on the screen behind the stage and also on another screen in front. To a theatre lover, all this added to a total ‘visual experience’ and was quite impressive.

The two-hour play featured a very large cast, made up of students, who all excelled. I must mention here that the script was written by Jason Knowles, a teacher, with assistance from the directors and producers Mme Julie Brunet and Amanda Miller, and also other teachers at Keswick High School. (In fact, KHS supervising staff and the York Region Board should be proud of these three and many other teachers who gave of their time to get this project off the ground and finally on stage after a year).

I can see where Mr. Knowles was headed with the script – he wanted to involve a large number of students and present a play that was both fascinating, humourous, but had a message – and that message was sent loud and clear. On top of this, he wanted it to be a ‘fun little romp.’

Erin Dagenais was just superb in the lead role as the poor little rich girl, who has lost her dog Mimi and needs help finding it.  Rachel Arnold as Veruca Salt assists her in the journey to find the lost dog, which takes them to an old-fashioned circus in the heart of New York. Rachel and Erin are just solid as the leads, as is newcomer Katie Knowles as the reporter who needs the scoop as Andy Cooper. (And is richly rewarded in the end).

Others worth mentioning include the evil Big Boss, played with much enthusiasm by Noah Cheong – the head of the circus who plans to sell the missing dog for the $10,000 ransom and later plans to abscond with all the circus profits. Kylie Cudmoore-Moody as Bartholomew, the circus leader was effective as was the outstanding performance by Kevin Gonsalves as the Lion Tamer. (Yes, an actual Lion was included in the script in this enjoyable little adventure through the world of ‘The Greatest Show On Earth’.)

The three clowns – every circus must have clowns despite what Stephen King is doing to them – were Victoria Girvan; Jordan Lefebvre; and Marion Lavigne. They simply added to the plot, which was essentially for the ‘Valley Girl’ Cherry Darling to retrieve her dog, with the help of Verusa Salt.

And this feat was successfully accomplished and the terrible Big Boss, her Strongman, played by  Samantha Mark  and Fortune Teller, played by Ginger Yu, all met with a terrible fate after running off with the cash from the Circus’s safe.

Dancers adding to it throughout the show were Rachel Norman; Emily James; Sarah Rose; and Briana Allan.  The Twins were Emily Rowe and Jazmin Leitch and the comical Mime was Miya Waldron (who also sang beautifully!)

Stage Manager was Gillian Ramage, but the tip of the cap should go to the Video Chief Mikayla Ladbadie, Sound Head Andrew Clements and Lighting Jennifer Germain. Liam Maloney and OIlivia Browne were the set designers for this rather versatile set. The elaborate costumers were by Savannah Skinner and Johnny Chin and effective hair and makeup by Elaina Naderi and Taylor Kidd

All in all a very spirited performance by a very spirited group of KHS students who deserve a pat on the back. On the Thursday night I attended, there were about 150 people in the audience, which was impressive! (And students manned the drink, cookie and popcorn desk that were available, not to mention Glo Sticks and rubber Clown noses were given to the kids in the audience, adding to the whole theatrical experience of a circus being in town).

My congratulations on a good script, good follow-through and some very good acting by a rather young group of thespians! Quite enjoyable!

Designed by DPK Design 

Festival Volunteers


Interested in Theatre but not as an actor, playwright, or director? The Very Useful Theatre Company is seeking Volunteers to support the third annual One-Act Play Festival.  Let us know how much time you have, we are seeking all levels of support, a few hours once or a full Festival support position.

No experience necessary!

We support High School Volunteer hours as well.


 “We would like acknowledge that the Town of Newmarket is located over lands originally used and occupied by the First Peoples of the Williams Treaties First Nations and other Indigenous Peoples and thank them for sharing this land. We would also like to acknowledge the Chippewas of Georgina Island First Nation as our close neighbour and friend, one that we strive to build a co-operative and respectful relationship with”.

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