Jenkintown >> For 70 years, avid fans of acting, singing and dancing have flocked from all over eastern Montgomery County to be a part of Jenkintown Music Theatre.
“We’ll get people from all over eastern Montgomery County, not just Jenkintown,” JMT publicist Bob MacFarland said. “The troop is well known and I think that’s a function of how long it’s been in existence.”
According to a information from the organization, JMT was formed in 1945 by three women: Louise Curry, Ann Cantly and Loretta Killianback. The group started off by putting on variety shows to raise money for the Home & School Association. It wasn’t until 1949 when the group began its transformation into doing full-fledged Broadway musical performances. By the early 1950s, the group’s variety shows were a thing of the past.
Shows currently take place at the Kuykendall Auditorium at Jenkintown High School. According to JMT’s website, the auditorium’s namesakes, Dolly Kuykendall and her late husband, Frank, were both music teachers at Jenkintown and joined Jenkintown Musical Theatre in 1952 as performers. Frank took over as director after his predecessor, Boyd Eckroat, retired.
“Dolly is still the group’s director to this day and the grande dame of Jenkintown Music Theatre,” MacFarland said.
Sharing a venue can sometimes create a problematic relationship between two entities, but MacFarland explained how well Jenkintown Theatre and the high school’s performing arts department work together.
“They do their show and tear down their set and then we come in and build our set,” MacFarland said. “We work hand in glove to make sure that we’re in sync. We know what their needs are; they know what our needs are. We don’t pre-empt them because obviously the school gets first priority.”
JMT’s website goes on to explain money made from the performances helps provide Jenkintown High School with necessary funds for upgrades to the Kuykendall Auditorium. From its inception in 1945 until 2013, most of the proceeds from the group’s productions also went to the Jenkintown Home & School Association.
“In turn,” the website says, “the Home & School Association does their part by helping with seating audience members and running the concession stands during the shows. It’s truly a community-driven event.”
To mark Jenkintown Music Theatre’s 70th anniversary, the group will be performing “Shrek the Musical.” The show is a musical reworking of the popular 2001 DreamWorks animated film and follows the unlikely journey of an ogre, his talking donkey sidekick and a princess seeking her true love as they discover that things aren’t always as they appear.
“This is the largest cast I’ve ever seen since I’ve been a part of the group,” MacFarland said. “It’s a cast of 60 and there are about 15 to 20 people working behind the scenes.”
Interested in joining the group? It’s really quite easy.
“If you go to a show, just tell one of the people at the door that you’re interested,” MacFarland said. “The other way is to visit our website where you can find ways to volunteer.”
The group will be putting on six performances of “Shrek the Musical” — three afternoon matinees and three evening performances — between April 10 and 12 and 17 and18 at the Kuykendall Auditorium at Jenkintown High School. Show times vary each day and can be found on the theatre’s website, www.jenkintownmusictheatre.org.
Tickets for each show are $20 and can be purchased on the theater’s website. However, tickets for the Saturday, April 11, afternoon matinee performance are being discounted to $15 “to encourage adults who want to bring children and grandchildren,” according to show’s press release.