Meghan Gardiner as Marian and Jay Hindle as Harold Hill in The Music Man. (photo by David Cooper)
Few children know what they want to do as a career. Even fewer start on their career goals before they are 10 years old. Yet, having celebrated his bar mitzvah in May, Julian Lokash, 13, has already set a firm foundation for his future. He dreams of running a school for the arts when he is an adult, and he seems to be doing everything right so far to reach that goal.
An irrepressible talent, Julian has focused his life around performing. He has used his summer vacations for the past three years to be a cast member in various productions at Theatre Under the Stars (TUTS) in Stanley Park. Rehearsals take two months and then performances are every other night for the remaining two months of the summer. In TUTS, he has performed in Oliver, Shrek and Beauty and the Beast.
TUTS is interesting because it is performed on a stage that is only two-thirds covered, leaving the front part of the stage, the apron, exposed to the elements. “It’s really fun but when it rains, we get wet and the stage can be really slippery,” said Julian about the challenges of being in an outdoor show in Vancouver. He admitted that some nights he came home covered in mosquito bites. This doesn’t dampen his enthusiasm, however. He plans to try out again for whatever show TUTS decides to present this summer.
Although he had a big smile on his face when describing his role in Beauty and the Beast, where he played Mustard in the ensemble, Julian has played a leading role in a professional production. Last December, he starred as James in James and the Giant Peach at Carousel Theatre.
This year, Julian is once again appearing on stage in a December production, this time at Gateway Theatre in Richmond in the classic musical The Music Man.
Being part of a professional production while going to school is a significant accomplishment and shows the level of dedication Julian has to his craft. Rehearsals for The Music Man began on Nov. 6 and carried on until the show opened on Dec. 8.
“We practise six nights a week and, once we start shows, we only have Mondays off,” said Julian. There are even days in the schedule where there are both a 2 p.m. matinée and an 8 p.m. show. He is pretty much giving up his winter break for the production.
When he was in elementary school, Julian was the only one in his French immersion class who was heavily involved in theatre.
“I had friends but no one else was into what I was. Now that I’m in high school in the [Lord Byng Secondary School] arts program, it’s so much better. Everyone thinks the same way as me, has the same interests,” he said. “Half of my classes now are with kids from the arts program. Social studies, English and science are taught from an arts perspective.”
Julian’s peers are now other singers, dancers and actors, who understand the commitment he has to acting, and his teachers are sympathetic to absences he may have due to his rehearsal or performance schedule.
His dance teacher is also used to him taking off long periods from classes. “I take tap, jazz and ballet at Westside Dance. It’s just a few blocks from my house. When I’m in rehearsal, I just have to miss dance,” said Julian.
Julian occasionally has voice lessons and was recently a guest soloist for the Cantata Choir, a semi-professional choir based in Vancouver. His acting training is from Arts Umbrella and Carousel Theatre for Young People.
With such a busy schedule, Julian acknowledges he could not do it without the support of his parents. He is looking forward to his upcoming performance in The Music Man, and continuing on with the Arts Mini program at Lord Byng.
When asked what he thinks of The Music Man, Julian was enthusiastic.
“It’s a very lively musical. It’s infused with humor and the characters are well developed. They really have their own personalities. I think kids can definitely enjoy it as much as adults do.” He said that anyone who likes music and dancing will love The Music Man.
The Music Man runs until Dec. 31. For tickets, visit gatewaytheatre.com.
Michelle Dodek is a freelance writer living in Vancouver.