Jay Silverberg (right), who’s playing Leo in the ECHO Players’ upcoming production of The Christmas Express, leads the cast in a carole duing rehearsal on Thursday, Nov. 30. The play premiers on Dec. 14. — Adam Kveton Photo

A play about having hope in the holidays coming to Qualicum Beach

ECHO Players preparing for their production of The Christmas Express

While, for some, the beginning of the holiday season is enough to put a twinkle in their eye and a hop in their step, others need a little more encouragement.

That’s the case for many of the residents of Holly, the small town where The Christmas Express play takes place.

But then, it can be hard to have a jolly outlook when you are watching your town dwindle away from your job at the train station, where more people are departing than arriving every day.

But one mustn’t lose hope, said Mari Lyn Kelly, the director of the ECHO Players’ production of The Christmas Express, opening Dec. 14. That’s what the comedy is all about, she said.

Kelly and a cast of 10 local actors, half with plenty of experience and the other half fairly new to the stage, are well on their way to being ready for their first performance, said Kelly, especially as their 1950s train station set comes together.

Apart from directing one holiday opera, Kelly said this is her first family-oriented holiday production.

Despite not having been acquainted with The Christmas Express before, she said it’s sure to get people in the Christmas spirit.

They’ll be convinced, along with the characters.

The play takes place entirely in a train station, where station manager Hilda is “particularly grumpy at this time of year,” explained Kelly.

She and her assistant, Satch, “are bemoaning the fact that Holly used to be a bustling town because the trains used to come through and now there’s like one train every day, and three people go out by train and one person comes in, so the town is deteriorating. The stores are closing. Nobody is coming here anymore.”

The point is further made with the mail carrier and newspaper editor, who are both starving for work.

But things start to change after the mysterious Leo arrives via the Christmas Express — a train which no one noticed arriving — and strange things start to happen.

“It’s an interesting story,” said Kelly. “There’s lots of puns, one-liners, there’s lots of comedy,” she said, adding it’s well-suited to anyone nine years old and older.

“Basically the premise of the story is that everyone should have hope. And Leo’s sermon, if you want to put it that way, is that if you have hope, then good things will happen.”

Just how Leo convinces his fellow characters of this is a question best answered by the play itself.

But the task is left to Jay Silverberg who will be playing Leo. Though it will be Silverberg’s first time performing in a stage production, Kelly said he and the rest of the cast are really coming together.

The play’s opening night is Thursday, Dec. 14, with performances until Dec. 31 at the Village Theatre in Qualicum Beach.

Tickets range from $6 for children to $21 for adults. For more info on the play, to buy tickets and prices, call 250-752-3522, contact info@echoplayers.ca or go to www.echoplayers.ca/ce.php.

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