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Child's play

Updated: 2013-02-18 10:07
By Rebecca Lo ( China Daily)

Child's play

Children practice dancing at a previous weeklong summer camp held in France. Photos Provided to China Daily

Child's play

Students perform Let's Grease.

Child's play

Jonathan Mallalieu accompanies children in a singing class.

Beauville Arts Musical Theater Summer Camp brings its rendition of youthful drama to Hong Kong for the first time this summer. Rebecca Lo hams it up with its founder and artistic director Jonathan Mallalieu to get the inside scoop.

Does Susie sleep with her tap dancing shoes? Does Ming hog the mic during family karaoke? Then Beauville Arts Musical Theater Summer Camp may be the perfect place to hone your kids' talents as they participate in a show with children from around the world.

Child's play

Beauville Arts' founder and artistic director Jonathan Mallalieu was in Hong Kong earlier this month to give a round of demonstrations to local schools.

This year, the weeklong camp will take place in Hong Kong for the first time, along with its traditional venue in Beauville, France, between Toulouse and Bordeaux.

The climax of the week will be a live performance at Y-Theater in Chai Wan's Youth Square, with all 50 participating youths singing and dancing their hearts out in the musical Let's Grease.

Mallalieu, an Oxford-trained classical musician with an education degree, first came up with the concept for Beauville Arts 12 years ago.

The Englishman had settled in France with his wife, Claire, after working in international schools in Amman, London and Toulouse.

He thought that a summer camp where children between the ages of 8 to 18 get a crash course on what it takes to put on a musical would be a great learning experience - even for a kid with no prior experience of singing or dancing.

He started initially with 24 young people and put them up at a camp down the road from his country house in Beauville.

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Over the years, that number has mushroomed to more than 50 children, with some returning every year to nurture their talents and the friendships they developed with other participants.

"Beauville is a fantastic place to hold courses because there are no distractions," says Mallalieu. "We have lots of kids who come from Europe, but some are also from Australia, New Zealand, Japan, China and the United States. It's a completely international experience and a very creative bubble for the week they are in France."

Mallalieu expects everyone to pull his weight and he admits that the workshops are intense.

"During the six day week, kids will learn 14 to 18 musical numbers and spend six or seven hours per day rehearsing," Mallalieu says. "They are expected to learn all their lines and parts in their spare time.

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"We treat them like young professionals. In Hong Kong, we plan to impose the same process. And we find that kids love it. They want to be proud of their achievements. The typical response I get from parents is that they're amazed at how we managed to pull off such a polished 90-minute show in just a week's time."

Over the past few years, Mallalieu brought his musical teachings to rural Chinese mainland areas for a series of charity performances.

"We brought a team from Europe and worked with 106 students for each show," he recalls. "We did Romeo and Juliet, The Lion King and The Tempest. Those were the most amazing weeks of my life.

"It was incredible to see these Chinese kids sing, speak and dance all in English - and they embraced it completely. Their progress in just a week's time was amazing. The shows were all performed in front of 4,500 people."

Mallalieu's success on the Chinese mainland encouraged him to test the waters with a camp in Hong Kong modeled after the one in France.

As with Beauville, the Hong Kong camp will be open to students on a first come basis.

All Mallalieu requires from the young applicants are "enthusiasm and interest. At the camp, kids learn about teamwork, gain confidence and the camaraderie of achieving something as a group. And many become best friends."

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