Sisters, Sisters, there were never such devoted sisters.

We can’t wait to see that number!

VOS recently asked Marlena Sculthorpe and Mackenzie Russell (Betty and Judy Haynes) to tell us about their experiences preparing for the VOS Theatre production of White Christmas, running November 6 to 15 at Victoria Hall in Cobourg.

Marlena Sculthorpe and Mackenzie Russell
Marlena Sculthorpe and Mackenzie Russell in rehearsal for Sisters (the feather fans are coming folks!)

VOS: So ladies, Judy and Betty in White Christmas, huh? Normally a pairing onstage is with the romantic interest. I bet it’s fun to have a sister.

Marlena Sculthorpe: Especially if you’re an only child and never had a real sister! Betty and Judy are a dynamic pair.  Betty is the older, more conservative and often protective sister, while Judy is the fun loving, free spirited younger sister.  Nothing sums up their relationship better than in their famous number, “Sisters”.

Mackenzie Russell: It is fun! Marlena has been so awesome to work with and has really helped me as this is my first time ever in a musical where I have a principal role. The most I’ve ever had is about 5 lines – not to mention the songs! So this has been a huge challenge and Marlena is a great mentor, and sister! She has really just been awesome to work with.

Mackenzie Russell

VOS: Mackenzie you’re doing double duty as choreographer. It’s a huge undertaking and yet the cast just raves about the three hour choroegraphy session. No complaints. They’re loving it. How do you do it and how long have you been dancing?

Mackenzie: I don’t know how I do it! It’s been a crazy challenge but it’s a lot of fun. I have the best group of dancers to work with which makes the whole process so enjoyable. They are at a variety of skill levels but they all work so hard and help each other. It’s a great atmosphere. I’ve really tried to push the dance chorus to reach their full potential and do things they never thought they would. I also try to keep the rehearsals as fun as I can while whipping them into shape! I want each person to feel successful and accomplished after wowing the crowds and hearing the applause. Hard work does pay off and I can’t wait to see the final products.

As for me, I’ve been dancing since about age 4 At studios and schools, university and now as a high school dance teacher. I try to spread my love of dance onto future generations. I can’t get enough and am glad to have the opportunity to have this exciting new challenge with VOS.

Marlena as Betty in White Christmas

VOS: So, Marlena, second time around; same role. You were spectacular in this show. What’s it like taking on the role of Betty for a second time.

Marlena: Taking on the role of Betty for a second time around is much different than I expected.  I assumed it would feel and look a lot the same, but it really doesn’t.  We have amped up the dance numbers and this time around I get to participate in 2 of them that I wasn’t onstage for in 2010.  It is nice to come back to a role because things like the lyrics and the lines come back a lot faster than learning something from scratch.  My blocking is different, my costumes are different , and even parts of the show that I’m onstage for are different. It’s a whole new fresh take on the show.

Blue Skies - Original Broadway Cast
Blue Skies – Original Broadway Cast

VOS: Ladies – what’s the greatest challenge with this show and these roles?

Marlena: I would say the challenge this time around is in the dance numbers.  Mackenzie has put together some stellar choreography and we have a great dance chorus.  One of my favourite parts of musical theatre is the dancing – as an audience member and as an actor.  It really livens up a show.  These dance numbers will be an audience favourite, I can guarantee.

Mackenzie:  I’d say my greatest challenge is actually the acting as well as the ballroom partner dance because it’s a style I don’t have much experience with. But both are going well so far!

The White Christmas Movie Poster
The White Christmas Movie Poster

VOS: Did you watch the movie when you were a kid, Marlena? Was it a part of your family tradition.

Marlena: I didn’t… I did watch the film once before the production in 2010.  I was more of a “Meet Me in St. Louis” kinda gal.  The story line in White Christmas remains the same, but there are some great Irving Berlin tunes thrown into the stage version that don’t appear in the movie.  If you’ve watched the movie a thousand times, you’re going to find new things to enjoy in the stage production.  If you haven’t seen the movie, you won’t be lost!

Mackenzie & Steve Russell from Shrek the Musical
Mackenzie & Steve Russell from Shrek the Musical

VOS: So, Mackenzie – so you’re working with your Dad again. You were both in the cast of Shrek but is this the first time you’re worked with him as a director?

Mackenzie: Yes. This is the first time I’m working with him as a director. I’ve actually had him as my teacher before but never as director. It’s lots of fun to see him in action doing what he loves. It’s a great bonding experience and he’s very encouraging and has had great advice throughout the process which is always helpful.

Marlena Sculthorpe and Joel Varty

VOS: Marlena – you’ve worked with Mr. Varty (Bob) on Vimy, Oklahoma, Shrek, On the Rooftop since you met him in 2010 the first time you played Bob and Betty. How is this rehearsal process different for the two of you?

Marlena: The last time we did this show, it was only my second major role and I hadn’t done musical theatre in 8 years.  I was more uptight and nervous about the rehearsal process, remembering lines and not looking like an idiot on stage.  For me, it feels more organic this time around.  Because the lines came back much faster, we were able to get into character much faster.  It’s also easier to work opposite an actor that makes you feel comfortable.  We are able to say to each other “that doesn’t work” and no one is getting their knickers in a twist.  I always tell Joel what I’m thinking and I think he does the same to me.  I’m very much like that in real life.  I’m a very bad liar.

Don’t miss your chance to see Marlena and Mackenzie as the Haynes sisters in White Christmas this November 6th to 15th!  Call for tickets (905-372-2210) or see the VOS website for more information.