Entertainment

Christmas classic comes to Penticton stage

Christmas classic It’s A Wonderful Life comes to the stage featuring many of the traditional favourite scenes including the bar with Kathie Hemmingson (left) playing Clara, Cameron Baughen (middle) playing Ernie Bishop, Paul Varga (right) as George Bailey. - Submitted Photo
Christmas classic It’s A Wonderful Life comes to the stage featuring many of the traditional favourite scenes including the bar with Kathie Hemmingson (left) playing Clara, Cameron Baughen (middle) playing Ernie Bishop, Paul Varga (right) as George Bailey.
— image credit: Submitted Photo

Telling a big story with small resources, a group of local actors believe their storytelling ability will speak for itself when they put the classic Christmas movie It’s A Wonderful Life on the stage.

“It is amazingly close to the movie and will hit all the emotional points,” said director Lori Dunn.

In the movie, an angel helps a compassionate but despairingly frustrated businessman by showing what life would have been like if he never existed. The play is an adaptation written by Philip Grecian and with such a tight backstage area at the St. Andrews Presbyterian Church, Dunn expects it to be controlled chaos.

“I am totally leaning on the experience and training of Jacqueline Koenig, who is the stage manager, to control the actors, crew and the 30-something costume changes and numerous props that could sink a small boat in the back stage,” said Dunn.

A varying cast of actors from Penticton and the South Okanagan will be familiar to audiences that have seen productions from Many Hats Theatre Company, Penticton Chamber, Bare Bones and the Summerland Singers and Players.

The show is headed by Paul Varga in the role of George Bailey, Cal Meikeljohn as Mr. Potter and Jill Barnes as Mary Hatch-Bailey. As a twist Kathie Hemmingson will fill the role of Clara the angel.

“We have some strong actors in the roles and we gender-bended a little bit with Kathie Hemmingson as Clara the angel instead of the original Clarence the angel,” said Dunn.

With 34 characters and just 15 actors, means the audience will see many faces play more than just one role. Dunn said after coercing one actor to take a small role, she realized she miscalculated and the actor is now playing four small roles that are all really important.

The director said her favourite scene from the movie takes place in the alternate universe in a bar. She added that is the great thing about doing such a classic movie is that everyone knows the lines and scenes.

“Anyone who loves the movie will be anticipating scenes and that was one of the biggest treasures of directing this play, giving people the emotional bang they are expecting because they watch this movie every single year,” said Dunn.

The theatre troupe hired a contractor to construct their sets and props were created by Dawn Renaud.

“If you are close enough to the stage and the actors are holding up a newspaper, you will be able to read the classifieds from that time. Everything is very authentic,” said Dunn.

Tickets for It’s A Wonderful Life, which is taking place at St. Andrews Presbyterian Church, are $20 for adults, $15 for seniors and students and children under 12 are free. They will be available at the door and at The Dragon’s Den on Front Street. Dunn reminds it is a full two-hour play with intermission so it may not be ideal for toddlers.

All proceeds from It’s A Wonderful Life will go back to the church for outreach programs in the community who offered the acting troupe the space and resources to put on the production.

“Our benevolent outreach work to community consists of two things, the newly-named Gateway Resource Centre, which offers shower and laundry facilities to homeless folk … and God’s Kitchen, a breakfast program which now runs Tuesdays — moved from Sundays — sort of like a Soup Kitchen in the morning,” said minister Colin Cross.

Showtimes for It’s A Wonderful Life are Dec. 7 at 7 p.m., Dec. 8 at 2 and 7 p.m., Dec. 14 at 7 p.m. and Dec. 15 at 2 and 7 p.m.

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