Theatre returns to Waterville

Cast members of the Missoula Children’s Theatre production of “Peter and Wendy.” (Empire Press photo/Suzanne Robinson)


By Suzanne Robinson
Empire Press Correspondent

Katherine Farrell, Missoula Children’s Theatre co-director, works with students after school for the production of “Peter and Wendy.” (Empire Press photo/Suzanne Robinson)

“Peter and Wendy,” a combined production of Waterville students and the Missoula Children’s Theatre (MCT), was presented Feb. 16-17 at the NCW Fairgrounds.

MCT is the nation’s largest touring children’s theatre, according to its website. The theatre has presented several productions in Waterville over the years, including “Aladdin,” “Rapunzel,” “Hansel and Gretel,” “The Frog Prince” and “Beauty Lou and the Country Beast.”

Two MCT team members spent a week in Waterville prior to the performances holding auditions and rehearsals but it was the 31 local students participating — from first grade through high school — who were the stars of the show.

The program was a delightful musical adaptation of the original story of “Peter Pan.” The play was written and composed by Michael McGill.

The coordinator for this year’s show was Jessica Shiflett from Waterville. Cast members were Austin Smoke, as Peter Pan; Dakota Grillo, as Tinker Bell; Olivia Smoke, as Wendy; Cody Shiflett, as John; Nathan Clune, as Michael; Audrey Schoenberg, as Shadow; Taylor Schoenberg, as Hook; Tasha Schoenberg, as Mrs. Darling; Savannah Tongate, as Tiger Lily; Memphis Brown, as Crocodile; Elsa Ashley, as Petey; Finley Brandt, as Nana; Mya DeFord, Hayleigh Barnhill, Lauren Shiflett and Hans Tonseth, as the Lost Boys; Brooke Kopta, Abbie Smoke and Rosie Holcomb, as the Neverlanders; Hannah Barnhill, Branson Barnes, Kellen Gurnard and Kaycie Poff, as the Pirates; and Quinn Barnes, Owen Smoke, Kynlee Daling, Timothy Tonseth, Lauren Adams, Mac Finkbeiner, Isla Jones and Konner Kendrick, as the Clouds. Piano accompanist was Heidi Tonseth.

Heidi Tonseth, piano accompanist, with her son Joseph during the Feb. 17 performance of “Peter and Wendy.” (Empire Press photo/Suzanne Robinson)

Along with the local cast were MCT team members Katherine Farrell, who played the part of Smee and was co-director, and Kat Key, co-director. Both women were thrilled to be a part of the MCT tour.

Farrell was born and raised in Portland, Ore., and is a graduate of Willamette University in Salem, where she received her Bachelor of Arts degree in theater, and later went on to earn her Master of Fine Arts in acting from Long Island University Post in Greenvale, N.Y.

Key was born and raised in Montana, where she graduated from the University of Montana in 2010 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in drama.

The MCT team worked with the students every day after school starting on Monday and taught the cast their parts and practiced the songs. Many who attended the performance were amazed how well the children performed after only one week of rehearsals.

Throughout its 45-year existence, the Missoula Children’s Theatre Tour has fostered developmental life skills in more than a million kids. Just this year alone, it will be working with 65,000 children in more than 1,200 communities in all 50 states and 17 countries, with up to 44 teams of tour actors/directors. MCT is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Montana Arts Council and the Montana Cultural Trust.

Shiflett expressed appreciation to the parents and community members who helped with meals for the team, to the Waterville School and the NCW Fairgrounds for making the program possible, and to Samantha Fletcher, Jesse Swider and Karen Sims for housing the team during their stay in Waterville.

For more information on the MCT program, visit