SLT makes won­der­ful choice

Hol­i­day clas­sic comes to life on Simcoe stage

Simcoe Reformer - Times-Reformer - - NEWS - MICHELLE RUBY

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, codi­rec­tor 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.

BRIAN THOMPSON/POST­MEDIA NEWS

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.

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