Alex Sheppard-Reid (right) and Michelle Collier (left) will be performing in Gateway Theatre’s 2018 production of It’s a Wonderful Life. (Grace Kennedy photo;Contributed photo — inset)

North Delta actors takes the stage in musical production of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’

Alex Sheppard-Reid and Michelle Collier will be performing in Gateway Theatre’s show this Christmas

This holiday season, two North Delta actors will be up on stage spreading Christmas cheer in Gateway Theatre’s musical production of It’s a Wonderful Life.

“It’s one of the few musicals that’s really Christmas-y, as opposed to just a lovely musical,” said actress Michelle Collier. Collier will be playing Ma Bailey in the musical, which runs through December at Richmond’s Gateway Theatre.

“It’s really focused on the spirit of peace on earth, good will to men, and women, and children.”

Many people are familiar with the 1946 classic It’s a Wonderful Life, which follows Bedford Falls businessman George Bailey as he is brought back from the brink of despair by an amateur angel, who shows him what life would be like had he never been born.

“It’s got a wide range of emotion for the audience, and for the actors,” Collier said about the story.

The movie focuses on the narrative around George Bailey’s life — starting with his childhood and continuing through his struggles in adulthood. The musical takes that story and adds some theatrical flair, including a musical number devoted to Clarence the angel’s attempt to stop George Bailey from committing suicide.

That number is North Delta actor Alex Sheppard-Reid’s favourite part.

“It’s probably the most musical theatre-y part of the show,” Sheppard-Reid, 12, said about the song, which sees a number of angels dressed as pilots dance across stage. “The choreography is amazing; it’s so funny.”

Sheppard-Reid will be playing young George Bailey, as well as George Bailey’s son Pete, in the production. The Sunshine Hills Elementary student has acted before with Delta Youth Theatre, but this performance will be his first with a professional theatre company.

RELATED: North Delta youth takes the stage in Annie Jr.

“It definitely runs a lot faster,” Sheppard-Reid said about the experience. Instead of having two or three months of rehearsals before opening night, they had just four weeks. And instead of six performances, there will be nearly 30.

“It’s so different from what I’m used to, but it’s really, really fun,” he said.

“I have missed a lot of school, so it’s been difficult for me to keep up with everybody else,” he added. “But I have kept going and I’m pretty much caught up now. It was just difficult at first to try and manage both of them.”

Despite the challenge of balancing school and rehearsal, Sheppard-Reid seems to be succeeding in his theatrical role.

“I’m really impressed with him. He’s a delight to work with,” Collier said. “He has an entire song, and he’s just doing a fantastic job.”

Like many of the actors in Gateway Theatre’s It’s a Wonderful Life, Sheppard-Reid will be taking on two characters — something that is both a great experience for the young actor and also a challenge.

“I find the best way for me to separate them is just [to give them] completely different personalities,” Sheppard-Reid said about his roles. “I try and make sure they don’t really have anything in common so I can keep things different, so it’s not like, ‘Why is young George here with adult George?’”

Even for veteran performers like Collier — she wouldn’t give her age, but has been performing since elementary school and is now old enough that her “favourite activity is seniors’ day at Value Village” — the alternate reality brought forward at the end of the musical provides an artistic challenge.

“We change so drastically,” Collier said. “How would I age? Would I walk differently? Certainly … my voice would be different because I wouldn’t have had the joy in my life of having George as my son.

“So that’s a challenge,” she continued. “It’s always good to have a challenge when you’re doing a part.”

So how does the musical compare to the movie?

Without giving too much away — Collier was hesitant to do that — the musical features a Charleston dance number, numerous costume changes over the decades of George Bailey’s life and special effects when Clarence the angel first arrives. But it still aims to maintain the heartfelt sincerity of the Christmas classic, Collier said.

“It’s moving, it’s fun,” she said. “I know families who every year go to the Christmas musical at Gateway, and that’s a family tradition for them, and that’s a lovely thing.

“This is a really wonderful one to add to that series of musicals at Gateway.”

Tickets for It’s a Wonderful Life begin at $29 and are available online at gatewaytheatre.com/its-wonderful-life. Shows will be performed on the main stage at Gateway Theatre in Richmond (6500 Gilbert Rd., Richmond). Opening night is Dec. 6, and shows run until Dec. 31.



grace.kennedy@northdeltareporter.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Guatemala mission offers hope, health

Peninsula team to visit remote villages, build a home, in Piedra Blanca

Former Surrey mayor Bill Vogel dead at age 87

Vogel was Surrey’s 31st mayor, in the big chair from 1978 to 1980, and was alderman from 1973 to 1977

Champ Surrey wrestler looks to ‘threepeat’ at U SPORTS nationals in Calgary

Cloverdale’s Brad Hildenbrandt named male wrestler of year after Canada West title win

Police investigating after 14-year-old boy pepper sprayed at Surrey mall

Surrey RCMP say two males fled the scene before officers arrived on scene at Guildford Town Centre

Cloverdale nurse, Langley truck driver awarded for saving a police officer’s life

Angela Feltrin and Earl Hanes thanked by B.C. RCMP’s top cop

VIDEO: Canada’s flag turns 54 today

The maple leaf design by George Stanley made its first appearance Feb. 15, 1965

North Delta happening: week of Feb. 14

Events, courses and clubs listings for North Delta

Judge rules Abbotsford home must be sold after son tries to evict mom

Mom to get back down payment and initial expenses

Mayors approve SkyTrain extension to UBC

Next step is a business plan and public consultation

Trump officially declares national emergency to build border wall

President plans to siphon billions from federal military construction and counterdrug efforts

Snow turns to slush, rain as it warms up across B.C.’s south coast

Some areas are already covered by more than half a metre of snow following three separate storms

Father to be charged with first-degree murder in Amber Alert case

11-year-old Riya Rajkumar was found dead in her father’s home in Brampton, Ontario

Police track armed kidnapping across Thompson-Okanagan

RCMP allege it was a targeted crime believed to be linked to the drug trade

St. Paul’s Hospital replacement slated to open in Vancouver in 2026

Announced many times, but this time there’s money, Adrian Dix says

Most Read