Six years ago, Brampton Music Theatre was in a bad place, suffering from poor attendance and an unhealthy financial situation. That’s when President Sharon Vandrish took over. Since then, the organization has turned things around, putting on first-rate productions that have been financially successful enough to support putting on more shows.

Originally formed in 1963 as the “Brampton Musical Society,” each year Brampton Music Theatre produces two adult main stage shows at the Rose Theatre and two youth productions at Lester B. Pearson Theatre. The main stage shows draw crowds of over 4,000 patrons per show. According to Vandrish, these musical theatre productions, along with the accompanying live orchestra performances, frequently rival the well-known professional talent booked at the Rose Theatre.

BMT’s production of ‘West Side Story’

Brampton Music Theatre comprises a volunteer board on which elected members have a three-year term, on rotation with other members. Surviving solely on its ticket sales, BMT receives no grants or funding from the city–with the exception of a reduced hourly rental rate for non-profits. BMT itself bears the bulk of the cost for its annual productions, with some shows nearing the $100K mark in expenses.

Brampton Music Theatre does not limit itself to professional performers. In fact, it encourages any community member to audition and welcomes performers with little to no experience.

For those seeking art education, Brampton Music Theatre has been a provider for the last 13 years. Youth Troupe’s arts education program is available for those aged 6 to 17. Vandrish’s goal for Youth Troupe is to create a non-threatening, inviting atmosphere that reduces student inhibitions and peer tensions, as well as one in which students will always feel welcome.

Following a vision statement of “affordable arts education,” Youth Troupe provides 11 weeks of Ontario Arts Curriculum-quality education in music, dance, and drama. Classes are taught by the same qualified instructors who put together the two annual Youth Troupe productions. As of 2017, there are two scholarships available for both current members and those aging out of the program.

The cast rehearses for BMT’s production of ‘The Lion King Jr.’

Brampton Music Theatre has even helped reignite interest in the arts in Brampton through its many collaborative efforts with other local groups. For example, the recent Arts Alive Festival saw BMT join forces with Peel Choral Society, The Rose Orchestra, Brampton Concert Band, Beaux-Arts, and Jazz Mechanics. Although some small grants were received for the festival, Vandrish notes that BMT donated its proceeds back to the city.

Vandrish said the recent production of Hairspray prompted a strong shift in the demographic makeup if Brampton Music Theatre’s audience. Many attendees admitted they’d lived their whole lives in Brampton but had never been to the Rose Theatre before.

Brampton Music Theatre plans to continue to fill the Rose’s seats with patrons of all ages and musical interests. Vandrish says BMT is always seeking opportunities to support other local arts groups and will look to the city for partnership opportunities, too.

Thanks to Brampton Music Theatre and its continued collaborative efforts, dedication, and enthusiasm, the arts are alive and going strong in Brampton.

Feature Image – BMT’s production of Hairspray