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Tour actor/director DeAndre Smith, front right, is part of a two-person team that is taking Yokosuka’s The Sullivans Elementary School children from scratch to stage in a week. About 60 kids are rehearsing for two Saturday performances of “Beauty Lou and the Country Beast,” a Missoula Children’s Theater production.

Tour actor/director DeAndre Smith, front right, is part of a two-person team that is taking Yokosuka’s The Sullivans Elementary School children from scratch to stage in a week. About 60 kids are rehearsing for two Saturday performances of “Beauty Lou and the Country Beast,” a Missoula Children’s Theater production. (Allison Batdorff / S&S)

YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — “We have to wear makeup — even the boys.”

The whispering children dissolve into giggles. Another child hushes them up. “Sssssshhhh! It’s for the show!”

There’s no time for stage fright: Opening night is just four days away. Auditions were yesterday. And the cast — 60 children from The Sullivans Elementary School — has lines, songs, dances and cues to memorize, plus lighting, sound and makeup to learn.

It’s all to come together before the curtain lifts Saturday on the sagebrush fairy tale of “Beauty Lou and the Country Beast.”

“People don’t believe us when we say it’s possible but it is,” says Missoula Children’s Theater Tour actor/director Katie Becker. “You’ll be amazed at what these kids will do.”

From scratch to stage in six days: That’s the MCT promise. The two-person team of Becker and DeAndre Smith have been making good on that promise for the past two months at military bases and foreign-language schools in South Korea and Japan.

The 30-year-old company visits 1,100 communities throughout the United States, Canada and overseas. In the States, MCT pulls up in a big red truck with all of the costumes, sets and scripts. Overseas has more logistical difficulties but the mission — to “develop life skills” such as creativity, communication and self-esteem — remains the same, Becker said.

Kids “act” and perform naturally. The trick is getting them to do it on command, Smith said.

“You could have the loudest, most chatty kid barely be able to say his name when it’s audition time,” Smith said. “They get nervous and embarrassed when it becomes structured.”

Through the week, MCT works on commitment, responsibility and teamwork during the four-hour-a-day rehearsals. The company uses a group audition concept so the kids won’t be so “self-conscious” for their first try-out, Becker said, and employs plenty of tricks to aid memorization.

“We look for talent but we also look for the kids who are trying really hard,” Becker said. “And you still need eyes in the back of your head.”

MCT also is doing enrichment workshops for The Sullivans, Yokosuka Middle School, Nile C. Kinnick High School and adults this week, said The Sullivans special education teacher Nancy Kelley-Burne.

“This is an opportunity to try and learn things that most kids don’t have,” Kelley-Burne said. “We’re lucky to get it.”

MCT hasn’t been here for the past five years, she said, and the funding to bring the group back almost was lost. The Japan District Superintendents Office reinstated the funding and the parent-teacher organization helped fund the workshops, she said.

“We’d like to be able to do this every year,” Kelley-Burne said.

Philip Yambrick, 11, indicated that would suit him. The whirlwind schedule is “fun,” he said, and he likes the memorization and singing the songs.

“Rehearsal is so long that it really gets dug into us,” Philip said

Performances are 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday in The Sullivans gym. All are welcome to attend. There is no admission and tickets can be procured through performers or by contacting Kelley-Burne.

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