David Leyshon and Alison MacDonald appear in the Chemainus Theatre Festival’s production of It’s a Wonderful Life Nov. 22-Dec. 23.

David Leyshon and Alison MacDonald appear in the Chemainus Theatre Festival’s production of It’s a Wonderful Life Nov. 22-Dec. 23.

Angels will be getting their wings at Chemainus Theatre Festival

The Chemainus Theatre Festival presents the Christmas classic It's a Wonderful Life Nov. 22 to Dec. 31.

Jeff Hyslop could almost feel how cold the characters felt in the Christmas classic It’s a Wonderful Life.

It’s felt especially as George Bailey in the 1946 American drama contemplates suicide, staring into the icy waters of the town of Bedford Falls, considering his past, while struggling with choices.

“I could just imagine how cold that must have been,”  said Hyslop.

Hyslop watched the show for the first time at about 10 years old.

He’s now playing It’s a Wonderful Life’s Uncle Billy in the Chemainus Theatre Festival’s version of the classic tale, taking the stage Nov. 22.

“We’ve all landed in a nice warm and cozy place. It feels like we’ve won the lottery,” Hyslop said of his fellow cast and the crew members.

“It’s kind of a gift, isn’t it? It’s definitely a nice segue for me.”

East Side Vancouver native Hyslop, who’s known as Phantom of the Opera to many thanks to 1,000 performances of the Lloyd-Webber musical, has also played parts in Cabaret, Kiss of the Spider Woman, and A Chorus Line in London and on Broadway.

And now he’s slipping into the very unstable — sometimes warm and fuzzy, other times miserable — boozer Uncle Billy’s shoes.

“It’s an amazing roller coaster ride,” said Hyslop. “Uncle Billy is quite unstable. It’s very much the up and down of a roller coaster. But it does make for a very interesting journey.”

Hyslop says he hasn’t had one person who’s not said to him upon hearing about his role, “You’re the guy who loses the money.”

“We’ve all lived there,” he said of Billy’s ups and downs and screw-ups. “The ups and downs can be very much the same as an actor’s.”

Hsylop’s quite tickled to play a role for the first time in this classic adaptation on the Chemainus Theatre’s stage.

“One of the hooks for me was (original actress) Donna Reed,” he said, reverting back to his boyhood feelings on the gal who played Mary. “I had the biggest crush.”

That and fond memories of his family watching the show at an age when he still held hope in Santa and believed an angel could be real as well.

But his innocent mind then didn’t delve into It’s a Wonderful Life’s theme on suicide.

“Instead, I remember drowning. Just the feeling of not being able to breath,” he reflected.

Chemainus Theatre’s musical version is being directed and choreographed by Peter Jorgensen, who’s known at the Festival Inn for past Mural Town productions Fiddler on the Roof and Guys & Dolls.

“The great thing about this holiday story is how easily it is enjoyed by people of all types,” says Jorgensen, who’s keeping the show close to its origins.

“Of course, the musical is based on a legendary film with big boots to fill. That’s where the theatrical experience stands out, there’s nothing else as intense and satisfying as being in a room with the incredible actors living the tale right before your eyes.”

Also appearing on stage will be David Leyshon (Guys & Dolls) as main man George Bailey, Alison MacDonald (Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat) as wife, Mary Bailey, Barbara Pollard (Emily Carr) as Mother Bailey, David Marr as guardian angel Clarence, Tim Dixon as businessman Henry Potter, Graham Coffeng as friend, Sam Wainwright, Gordon Roberts as Joseph and Gower the aging druggist, Becky Hachey as flirt Violet, and Damon Calderwood as Marty.

Hyslop’s worked with several of the players, including director Jorgensen and actor Roberts, as well as watched Marr and Pollard in action on stage.

“It’s really a creamy cast, with every level of spectacular imaginable,” he boasted. “What we’re bringing is 100 years of acting experience to the stage.”

It’s a Wonderful Life is popular among all generations due to its universal appeal.

The plot of the musical remains true to the Frank Capra film of the same name, from the familiar “every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings,” through to the Christmas Eve escapades that take place in the town.

The Chemainus production will feature more than a dozen broadway-style melodies and songs led by musical director Nico Rhodes (previously in The Festival’s A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline, Anything Goes, Tonight Piaf and The Tales of Hans Christian Andersen), and accompanied by musicians Alicia Murray and Marisha Devoin.

Your ticket

What: It’s a Wonderful Life

Where: Chemainus Theatre Festival Inn

When: Wednesday through Sundays, Nov. 22 to Dec. 31, with matinee and evening shows.

Tickets: online or 1-800-565-7738.

Just Posted

The Crofton trailer park home where the bodies of two people were found. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Mom still waiting for answers after daughter and her fiance found dead in Crofton

Pair discovered dead in their Crofton home in May identified as Rachel Gardner and Paul Jenkins

FILE – Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, takes part in an event on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous Peoples Day must be a ‘call to action’, says Assembly of First Nations chief

Discovery of children at Kamloops residential school site must lead to change, Perry Bellegarde says

CVRD to increase enforcement after audits reveal that curb-side recycling contamination in the district is well above acceptable limits. (File photo)
CVRD reports contamination in recyclables well above acceptable levels

Increased enforcement planned starting this summer

A conceptual rendering of the commercial plaza at 1130 Rocky Creek Road. (Town of Ladysmith/June 15 Council Agenda)
Rocky Creek commercial plaza passes public hearing

The proposed plaza at 1130 Rocky Creek Road would bring commercial activity to Ladysmith’s north end

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
VIDEO: Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

Chilliwack secondary school’s principal is apologizing after a quote equating graduation with the end of slavery in the U.S. was included in the 2020-2021 yearbook. (Screenshot from submitted SnapChat)
B.C. student’s yearbook quote equates grad to end of slavery; principal cites editing error

Black former student ‘disgusted’ as CSS principal apologizes for what is called an editing error

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross. (Photo by Peter Versteege)
BC Liberal leadership candidate condemns ‘senseless violence’ of Okanagan church fires

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross says reconciliation isn’t about revenge for past tragedies

A coroner’s inquest will be taking place at the Capitol Theatre in Port Alberni for the next week. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Teen B.C. mom who died following police custody recalled as ‘friend to many’

Police sent Jocelyn George to hospital after intoxication had gone ‘beyond the realm’ of normal detox

FILE - In this Nov. 29, 2020, file photo, Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib leaves the field after an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons in Atlanta. Nassib on Monday, June 21, 2021, became the first active NFL player to come out as gay. Nassib announced the news on Instagram, saying he was not doing it for the attention but because “I just think that representation and visibility are so important.” (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)
Nassib becomes first active NFL player to come out as gay

More than a dozen NFL players have come out as gay after their careers were over

Penticton Indian Band Chief Greg Gabriel speaks to the Sacred Hearts Catholic Church burning down early Monday morning, June 21, 2021. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Penticton band chief condemns suspicious burning of 2 Catholic churches

Both Catholic church fires are deemed suspicious, says RCMP

COVID-19 daily cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day moving average to June 17, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections drop to 90 on Sunday, 45 Monday

Pandemic spread dwindles as 77% of adults receive vaccine

Emergency vehicles are parked outside of the Wintergreen Apartments on Fourth Avenue. (SUSAN QUINN / Alberni Valley News)
Port Alberni RCMP investigate stabbing on Fourth Avenue

Two men were found with ‘significant’ injuries near Wintergreen Apartments

By protesting uninvited in First Nations’ territories, conservationists are acting in a neocolonial or paternalistic manner, says Huu-ay-aht Chief Robert Dennis. Photo by Heather Thomson
A closer look: do Vancouver Island First Nations support the war in the woods?

First Nations/environmentalist old growth alliance uneasy, if it exists at all

Most Read