The streets of Chicago, fields of daffodils, walking the line on stage with the Man in Black: The summer cast of the Alpine Theatre Project in Whitefish is becoming the stories they tell.
The Alpine Theatre Project’s 11th summer season started with a bang last week with “Chicago” and “Ring of Fire: The Music of Johnny Cash.” The repertory season continues today with the opening of “Big Fish,” a family-friendly musical production.
Alpine Theatre Project brings Broadway talent to Montana every summer for a series of shows on the Whitefish Performing Arts Center stage. For the past two seasons, the company has been performing as a repertory theater, which rotates shows throughout the season rather than performing the same production night after night.
Going from show to show presents some unique challenges for the cast and crew.
“To see the same actor change roles from one show to the next, it’s an absolute trip,” Alpine Theatre Project Board Treasurer Jason Meuter said.
Luke Walrath, director of marketing and development, co-founder and cast member, said every year since the company’s inception in 2004 has just gotten bigger and better.
“We don’t go small,” Walrath said. “This year we’re using the space [on stage] to the max and incorporating all new projection technology and effects.”
Broadway cast member and Alpine Theatre Project veteran N’Kenge said she was impressed this year with all the new projection effects and thinks the audience will enjoy it, too.
“There’s so much talent in the team of people putting it all together,” N’Kenge said.
Walrath said that 53 people are involved in making each show go this season, and that number doesn’t include Alpine Theatre Project board members and other volunteers.
“It’s a big train,” Walrath said.
That train includes a lot of community support. Walrath said that the success of this season wouldn’t have been possible without the Glacier Vista Center for providing rehearsal space; Whitefish Middle School (which is connected to the performing arts center) for allowing the company to use classroom space and Whitefish Mountain Resort for housing cast members.
N’Kenge said the community support this season was invaluable.
She recalled a day earlier this summer when the air conditioning went off in the performing arts center, and explained that because of the actors’ contracts, the cast wouldn’t have been able to continue to work. Fortunately, the Glacier Vista Center stepped in and offered rehearsal space.
The cast regrouped in the new rehearsal space and ended up running all three shows back-to-back.
“At that point I figured, if we can do that, we can do anything!” N’Kenge said.
She added that her entire Montana experience has been filled with good memories, including ziplining, hiking, visiting the farmer’s markets and shopping in downtown Whitefish.
“I love Montana,” she said.
While the cast is enjoying the Montana experience, the audience gets to enjoy the Broadway experience. Alpine Theatre Project board member Kevin Klepper said that dynamic is one of the special things about the company.
“I was born and raised in New York City,” Klepper said. “And when I decided to move my family here [to Whitefish], I thought I would have to give up Broadway, but then I found ATP.”
Walrath said the summer productions are the company’s biggest operation but Alpine is active year-round. He said the most important mission of the company is focused on providing educational and performance opportunities for students in the Flathead Valley.
This summer season features several local students performing alongside the professional cast.
N’Kenge said she enjoyed working with the students.
“It’s humbling,” she said. “It kept me on my toes because I want to set a good example for these young people.”
This season’s 13-member core cast includes Sean McDermott, Lauren Lim Jackson, Kristen Beth Williams, N’Kenge, Nicholas Ward, Eric Michael Krop, Susan O’Dea, Rebecca Spear, David Kirk Grant, Michael Valentine, Jessica Ernest, Becky Stout and Walrath.
This summer’s shows also feature additional local performers including Halladay Quist, Amanda Morrison, Mikey Winn, Bethany Goodwin, Griffin Ziegert, Erica Von Kleist, Katelyn Ehrenberg and Rmi Strauser.
“It’s a really great cast,” N’Kenge said. “It’s a fun mix of local and Broadway talent.”
All summer shows begin at 8 p.m. and take place at the Whitefish Performing Arts Center, 600 Second St. E., Whitefish.
Visit www.atpwhitefish.org for more information and call 406-862-7469 (862-SHOW) to purchase tickets.