A Loco Viewpoint
It’s A Wonderful Play
When this column is published, we’ll be a day away from The Calmar Prairie Players production of the radio-play-for-the-stage, “It’s a Wonderful Life” at the Calmar Legion. The story is familiar as the beloved Jimmy Stewart film gets recycled every Christmas like Aunt Meg’s fruit cake that’s eternally regifted but never opened.
It is the Tale of George Bailey and the Bailey Building and Loan. George runs into trouble, thanks to mean old Mr. Henry Potter, who our cast kept mistaking for Quiddich-playing Harry Potter of the J K Rowling book and media juggernaut.
“HENRY Potter… HENRY!” wept Angie, our director who didn’t think it nearly as funny as the cast. This is Angie’s directorial debut and she says she prefers acting to directing, or even cleaning toilets to directing.
Rather than our stock players or the accomplished actors we borrow from area drama groups, this production puts the “community” in community theatre. Our cast is mostly from town and, although inexperienced in performing, is surprisingly talented and dedicated to our goal of helping Christmas Elves.
Take the fellow playing George. His name’s Keith and he’s the pastor of the Baptist Church. When beginning his journey into voice acting for this show, he was terrible! Keith has a… let’s say… unique voice, so when trying to do Jimmy Stewart, his voice was so strained, he sounded like Kermit the Frog choking to death.
Now, however, since Keith has stopped trying to be Jimmy and started being George, he has blossomed into a wonderfully emotive actor who projects, not just his voice, but his feelings. I chuckle seeing a spiritually blessed, God-serving man such as Keith, pull off the scene where George is hitting on Violet Bick, the floozy of the story. (Not every Christmas story has a floozy!)
I’m sure Keith’s wife, Rachel, is okay with it since she’s in the cast too, right there on stage where she can keep a close eye on her man. Rachel is playing The Superintendant. This is apt since she rides herd over her energetic offspring throughout rehearsal. Their kids, Justus, Raine and Connelly contribute a lot, singing in a little children’s choir to get everyone in the spirit, while young Angelisse has a two roles in the play.
Since our group has yet to attract a floozy to join (Dang!), the chastity-challenged Miss Bick is being played by a decidedly unfloozyish young lady named Kara. She’s impressive; stepping out of who she is, to play a character so against type. That’s the soul of acting, though, and it’s apparent Kara is both enjoying it and nailing it. Being the only young adult in the cast, I give Kara much credit for hanging with us old people.
The lady playing Mary Hatch who has been in love with George Bailey all his life, (the character, not the actor) is played by my dear friend Tammy. She works with hubby, Gord, at Whatever Repairs in town and theatre is her way to escape the fix-it shop they dedicate their lives to. Acting is good therapy and heaven knows, Tammy could use therapy. It’s the perfect match!
Angela, a stalwart with the group, gets a star turn, as well. Her name is pronounced the same way Angela Merkel, the German leader, pronounces hers, sort of like an-gay-la. It’s important to remember when asking for autographs after the show.
Dart league president, Lanny, has a number of roles including drunken pharmacist, Mr. Gower. Lanny is perfect as Gower being no stranger to alcohol and drugs. The scene where Gower slaps young George around is magic with young William, Shelley’s boy, playing the lad amazingly convincingly. It’s like he’s well versed in getting smacked upside the head. Good job, Shelley!
Besides supplying young George, as well as the sweetest ZuZu ever, played by her daughter Faith, Shelly brings much talent to her multiple roles. Never acted before, she was convinced to try out by a Devon Hospital co-worker; Prairie Player stalwart Kelly Ainsworth who just starred in the East of 60 hit, “Ghost Train”.
Since good men are hard to find, at least for acting, we found a couple of out of towners named Sam and Dave (not the 1960’s R&B act that did “Soul Man” although that would have been cool, too.) Neither actor speaks English normally as David is Australian while Sam is as “Sco’ish” as Groundskeeper Willy. Trying to get them to sound American has been the kind of challenge directors dream about if they eat too much spicy food before bed. The duo has done remarkably well, however, although the journey has been slower than The QEII highway in a blizzard. While driving a SmartCar. With a flat.
Lovely Patricia is another newbie in our ranks with great potential. She obviously lied about her age to get into the senior’s residence in town or has a portrait in her attic that is aging for her. The class and style she brings to her multiple roles, speaks of a wonderful future with our group. She’s our type of crazy.
Shirley, who goes postal every day in Thorsby, is our announcer along with handling a few other roles. She‘s the most accomplished among us, having actually been in a movie besides many plays. She claims she’ll remember us when she’s rich and famous, although I’m not so sure. Her pet name for me is already, “Hey, you.”
Leah, another Prairie Player alumnus, is handling the live sound effects which are great fun to watch. Having lost her voice to bronchitis, she is relieved she has no speaking role.
The canned music and effects are provided by our wonderful techie, Mark, who we thank the heavens above for sending to us at the last minute.
This is, by the way, your chance to watch a rare event; Cupcake singing. She and Roxanne are lending their lovely voices to our event.
The show starts at 7:30 on the 29th and there’s a matinee at 2:00 on the following Sunday. Admission is just five bucks and every cent goes to Christmas Elves. Thanks to the Baptist Church ladies for baking the cookies for the centerpieces!
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