Monday, 2 December 2013

Every time a bell rings...

George Bailey, a well-known fictional character, is a small-town man whose life seems so desperate he contemplates suicide. He had always wanted to leave Bedford Falls to see the world, but circumstances and his own good heart have led him to stay. He sacrificed his education for his brother, kept the family-run building and loan afloat, protected the town from the avarice of the greedy banker Mr. Potter, and married his childhood sweetheart. As he prepares to jump from a bridge, his guardian angel intercedes; showing him what life would have become for the residents of Bedford Falls if he had never lived.
This is the classic 1946 film - "It's A Wonderful Life" and was the latest play to be staged by the Brockville Theatre Guild at the local Brockville Arts Centre. This timeless Christmas classic was the perfect choice to mark the Guild's 80th anniversary and kick off the upcoming holiday season
I had been anticipating this production since the very beginning. You see, my fiance, Nick, had been cast to play "Ernie, the cab driver". Nick has a love for the arts, and experience in theatre from his native home in Quesnel, BC but this was a first for him since moving to Ontario nearly eight years ago. Nick's good friend Will Wright, was also auditioning (and would later be cast as the lovable angle "Clarence") . With our family life now affording him the support, time and flexibility to get back into a hobby he once loved so much, Nick jumped at the chance to audition for this adaptation of the classic film.
As a first-time "theatre widow", I had no idea the time and effort that went into the productions. Thankfully Will's wife, Laura was there to guide me through the months of late-night rehearsals and proved to be a great date when we attended the production's closing night, last Saturday.
When we arrived, the lobby of The Arts Centre was beautifully decorated for Christmas and was buzzing with excited patrons. Everyone was dressed up, cocktails in hand and catching up with friends they hadn't seen in awhile. It was the perfect setting and reminded me of what life would have been like before the era of motion pictures - one in which live theatre was what everyone looked forward to as a night on the town.
We entered into the theatre and took our seats, where the lights dimmed and the play began. I was nervous for Nick and Will. I knew Will was a seasoned actor with years of experience in the Guild, but I had never seen either of them act before and had no idea what to expect. As the story unfolded, I found myself drawn into the characters and anticipating the upcoming scenes. Having watched the original movie every year for as long as I can remember, I may have been able to say the lines myself. What the actors brought to the stage, that set it apart from the movie, was a modern twist with their humour. I found myself cracking up by their mannerisms and on-point comedic timing. Although "It's A Wonderful Life" can be very dramatic and even reflective at times, there is also a lighter side that brings you back to the joys of the holiday spirit and the Theatre Guild nailed it with this adaptation.
The long hours of rehearsal and cast chemistry was very evident. The "Young George Bailey" and "Young Mary" proved to have talent to spare as they flawlessly navigated the scenes and really made you believe their love story. I also have to give a huge hats-off to Paul Duchesne, who reprised the leading role of George Baily himself. Paul was incredibly moving throughout the play, taking you with him on his journey of lost hope, despair and then eventually renewed faith in life.
 It was a remarkable and emotional ride that once over, truly had you walk away feeling that "It's A Wonderful Life" after all.....

1 comment:

  1. A great article. Very well written and captured exactly what was going on that night, with the actors and the theatre goers. Would make those who missed the show jealous that they never got to see it.
    Dave Moon (Mr. Gower)