They had crossed paths for years.
Chad and Erin Matchette had worked with — and auditioned against — Lalainia Lindbjerg since the 1980s, through various musical theatre companies in the Lower Mainland.
The couple also knew that Lindbjerg had a reputable performing arts school that she, her mom, and sister started in March 1997, with various classes around the Tri-Cities.
So when Lindbjerg’s sister, Rochelle, reached out in 2019, as a sole owner, for a partner to take the business to the next level and to find it a permanent home, the Matchettes stepped up to the plate.
By January 2010, Chad had become the owner and artistic director of the Lindbjerg Academy of the Performing Arts and took nearly a year to make its home perfect.
This month, 11 years after the company opened at the base of Blue Mountain Street, by IKEA, Lindbjerg is celebrating its 25th year by thanking the family that started it all — and by honouring the staff and students who have walked through its doors.
Last week, in an interview with the Tri-City News, Erin Matchette talked about the couple’s lifelong love for musical theatre and education, how the company coped during the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak and what’s in store for the Coquitlam facility as it looks to later this year and beyond.
IT STARTED WITH DUKE
Chad and Erin Matchette met in September of 1992, while performing in the Fraser Valley Gilbert and Sullivan’s production of The Grand Duke.
Then, Erin, a Ladner high school grad, was in the ensemble, while Chad, who a Cariboo Hill Secondary grad, portrayed a villain.
But later, while raising their two children, Jack and Emily, the couple took different paths.
Erin, who studied acting and theatre at UBC and the William Davis Centre for Actor’s Study, went into the early education field, while Chad, a high-level Telus employee, also performed and directed for Footlight Theatre Company, among others.
By the time he took over Lindbjerg, Chad Matchette was the production manager of the Royal City Musical Theatre in New Westminster, staging major musical theatre productions.
His last show with RCMT was Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! in 2013.
Still, it wasn’t the only musical theatre project up his sleeve.
That year, Chad Matchette also founded Align Entertainment, a Metro Vancouver theatre production company that provides a large-scale family-friendly theatre, with Coquitlam’s Patti Volk.
By February 2020, Align Entertainment had just finished remounting Shrek: The Musical at the Michael J. Fox Theatre in Burnaby when COVID-19 hit.
Over the course of two years, Lindbjerg’s enrolment for its classes in Richmond dropped to zero, while its Coquitlam headquarters lost 35 per cent of its students.
“We have many students who are not returning, or have quit musical theatre altogether,” Chad Matchette lamented. “They’re just not coming back.”
But, for those who stayed with the academy, Lindbjerg installed technology and physical distancing measures to keep students and staff safe.
“It was a considerable expense to keep going,” Erin Matchette told the Tri-City News, “but we persevered and now we’re on the other side.”
Now that provincial health orders are loosening, the Matchettes say they’re looking forward to their next projects during Lindbjerg’s milestone year: the Rising Stars shows at the Terry Fox Theatre in Port Coquitlam in April and May, as well as their year-end productions in June.
And, on Jan. 4, 2022, the couple bought Showstoppers Academy from the owner, who was leaving the Maple Ridge business she founded 13 years ago. “It has a good reputation and we’re pleased to be involved,” she said.
Currently, the 95 students with Showstoppers are temporarily practising at the Riverside Community Church in PoCo, but the Matchettes hope to find them new digs in Maple Ridge this year.
In addition to their hectic schedule, Lindbjerg is taking 25 students in its show choir to Disneyland California during spring break.
There, they’ll perform in the company’s rebranded attire that has the outline of two golden dancers reaching for a star (in 2020, the show choir was three days away from leaving for Disneyland when it was grounded due to the virus).
And, starting in April, to make better use of its daytime space, Lindbjerg will début new programs for little ones, as well as seniors:
- • Tuesdays: Broadway Tiny Stars, Broadway Tiny Stars Advanced, Seniors Tap and Broadway Golden Stars
- • Wednesdays: Seniors Showtune Sing-a-long
Erin Matchette said their plan is to build up enrolment this spring and summer at Lindbjerg and Showstoppers.
“Our aim is to have things back to normal in September,” she said.