SLT makes wonderful choice for holiday production
Actor Arthur Shantz studies his lines in the prop room at Simcoe Little Theatre during a rehearsal Sunday for the theatre's production of It's a Wonderful Life. Brian Thompson/Postmedia Network
Christmas Eve in Bedford Falls comes to life on the Simcoe Little Theatre stage with its production of the holiday classic It’s a Wonderful Life.
Opening Thursday, the play in two acts by James W. Rodgers is adapted from the 1946 American film starring James Stewart and Donna Reed, which has become mandatory Christmas viewing.
“So many people in the cast got involved because they love this story,” said Darleen Degrieck, co-director of the play, along with Sarah Finch. “It’s a wonderful play, it’s a wonderful cast, it’s a wonderful life. I get kind of teary thinking about it.”
The large cast of 24 began rehearsals in September and includes a mix of SLT veterans and newcomers.
Ralph Tutin plays George Bailey, a man who has given up on his dreams in order to help others and whose imminent suicide on Christmas Eve brings about the intervention of second-class angel, Clarence Odbody.
Clarence shows George all the lives he has touched and how different life in his community of Bedford Falls would be had he never been born.
Charly Buck takes on the role of George’s wife Mary.
Both Tutin and Buck are veteran actors who are making a return to the SLT stage.
Although it’s not a musical, Finch said they took a bit of liberty with the production and have added a few Christmas songs.
Clark Hoskin, who plays Bert, the cop, is also returning to SLT, after a 20-year absence.
“It’s fun to be around such a big cast,” he said.
Making his debut with the company is Jim Donovan, who takes on the dual roles of Sam Wainwright, “the old-timey entrepreneur who saves the day with a large bank loan” and bartender Giuseppe Martini.
The cast also includes two mother and daughter duos, Lillian Miller and her 10-year-old daughter, Sydney, and Pauline Lemke and her daughter, Violet, 9.
Eleven-year-old Connor Sheppard, a Grade 7 student at West Lynn Public School, is also taking on two parts, that of Tommy Bailey and a minor role as a paperboy. Connor’s first foray into acting was as Tommy in SLT’s Anne of Green Gables, the company’s Christmas production in 2014.
“My mom was doing theatre and I wanted to spend time with her.”
Another West Lynn student, Maggie Baker, 11, is tasked with playing the roles of two boys, the young George Bailey and George and Mary’s son, Peter Bailey.
“I read for (the role of) Zuzu (the Baileys’ daughter) but she’s supposed to be a seven-year-old,” said Maggie. “So they said why don’t you read for the boys?
“It has been an adventure. I’ve had to lower my voice to an adult voice. I have to gel my hair back and I don’t wear any makeup. It’s just fun.”
Maggie admits It’s a Wonderful Life, made six decades before she was born, isn’t on her Christmas movie list.
“I only watched the parts I’m playing,” she said.
It’s a Wonderful Life will run from Thursday to Saturday from Nov. 16 to Dec. 3 with all performances at 8 p.m. There will be Sunday matinees at 2 p.m.
Tickets are $25 for adults, $20 for seniors and students, and $8 for children.
Degrieck called it a “wonderful Christmas experience that will warm everyone’s heart.”
“Don’t forget your Kleenex,” said Hoskin.