Andrew McNee

As It’s Snowing on Saltspring opens, the Granville Island Stage reveals a homey cottage setting, presumably on Salt Spring Island. A channel-flipping, super-lazy Bill Bannister (Andrew McNee) is ensconced on the sofa. His pregnant wife Sarah (Juno Rinaldi, in her Arts Club debut) is all about the holidays, trying to decorate their recently-purchased cottage with festive tidings.

She wants a full-fledged turkey dinner, he’s happy with a pizza for the Christmas meal. Adding to the story is Bill’s fear of impending fatherhood: “Babies cry for the first two years, don’t they?”. A dentist by trade, he’s taken some badly-needed time off to recoup and focus on the birth of their child. The couple seem to have split further apart in their 15 years together, particularly noticeable in Bill’s reticent behaviour.

Deborah Williams, Juno Rinaldi, Joel Wirkkunen
[Deborah Williams, Juno Rinaldi, Joel Wirkkunen]

Focused on his next Viva Puffs fix, Bill aims to enjoy a hassle-free holiday. Enter some of the other characters, Martha (Deborah Williams) and Reverend (Joel Wirkkunen) Kane, Realtor Bernice Snarpley (Beatrice Zeilinger shines in this role!), and a fluffy pet dog (a brilliantly executed puppet), to interact with the couple, as the story lines begin to add up, leading to an adventure with Bill and Santa Claus rounding off act one.

Deborah, Beatrice, Juno
[Deborah Williams, Beatrice Zeilinger, Juno Rinaldi]

Setting the scene for act two is a parallel universe: The North Pole, where the characters are now in the roles of elves Peggy and Grindle O’Darby (played by Rinaldi and Zeilinger), Santa and Mrs. Claus (Wirkkunen and Williams), with Bill still playing…Bill.

Bill has been transported by Santa to the North Pole to learn a few lessons. Santa’s on the couch watching a hockey game – who knew he was a Habs fan?! What seems like the idyllic place to live soon turns to everyday, routine roles carried out in a similar fashion to his own life.

Joel Wirkkunen, Andrew McNee
[Joel Wirkkunen, Andrew McNee]

As Bill rediscovers what Christmas is meant to be, he realizes that his place is back on Saltspring, preparing his wife to greet their new baby. The transition from the North Pole to Saltspring is successfully done through light and sound, as Bill is teleported back to reality. He awakes precisely where he left off the night before, this time filled with purpose and love.

Nicolas Cavendish’s holiday classic (that received its premiere in 1985) contains a variety of humour that will satisfy most holiday theater-goers. It’s an all-in-one, light-hearted, zany and message-driven two hour piece (with intermission), including a well-rehearsed cast and detail-rich sets and lighting, provided by Set Designer Ted Roberts and Lighting Designer Alan Brodie.

It's Snowing on Saltspring cast
[Andrew McNee, Beatrice Zeilinger, Joel Wirkkunen]

The colourful costumes come courtesy of Darryl Milot. Karma the Dog (who switches to Rudolph during the North Pole scene) is made possible by talented Assistant Stage Manager Ronaye Haynes. Sound effects by Sound Designer Michael Rinaldi add to the fun and magic of the holiday production.

It’s Snowing on Saltspring continues to December 28 at the Granville Island Stage.

Photos by David Cooper.

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