ECHO Players is giving the first chance on stage to a play about giving people second-chances in life, and at a time when giving that second chance is often up for debate in the community.
Written and with lyrics by Parksville’s David Jewell, and with music by Jewell and Nanaimo’s Nico Rhodes, Jewell was inspired to write the musical after a conversation with a homeless man.
About an off-Broadway theatre in 1955 New York City as it struggles towards opening night of Ole Louisiana, the play touches on “the idea of loss, the challenges of love, and the opportunities for a second chance in life,” including as it pertains to those who find themselves homeless, said director Jennifer Kelly.
“(Part of the play) sheds light on the fact that we never know how a human being ends up in those circumstances,” she said, and that revealing the truth is challenging for anyone.
But the play isn’t just inspired by the idea of homelessness: it’s also raising money to help the homeless.
One of Manna Homeless Society’s own, Jerrold Paetkau happens to be performing in the musical, and it wasn’t long before organizers decided that not only should the play do something to support those in need, but that it should support Manna.
The play will raise funds for Manna’s community care mobile with a donation box at its box office, and Manna will also have an insert into the program brochure for the play, said Paetkau.
“They’ve just been so generous with us,” he said, noting that the community care mobile helps break down barriers for those who are homeless or in need when it comes to getting medical aid. Getting to a health centre or doctor can be difficult, and there is sometimes a fear around those institutions, he said. The care mobile provides another option with support from nurse practitioners.
“When we’re putting on a play like this that talks about a homeless person receiving a second chance, even though his life has been torn apart through the situations that he’s encountered, we’re able to regularly offer that to people,” said Paetkau.
Kelly, who’s been involved in the creation of the musical for many years, said she feels honoured to get to direct it and play a part in delivering its first incarnation to the world.
“It’s exciting that the ECHO Players has decided to support and produce local writers,” said Kelly.
She said she can’t say enough about the ability and positivity of the designers, production team and the cast. There are 21 cast members, with some very recognizable faces among them, as well as some new actors to ECHO Players.
As the musical depicts a play within a play, some actors are, oddly, playing roles that other members of the production team are in fact filling. Kelly has the strange privilege of directing someone playing a director.
The music in the production is in the style of the ‘50s Golden Age, said Kelly, with catchy and heart-touching tunes that the cast has often ended up singing to themselves as they leave rehearsal, said Kelly.
With almost 80 costumes and auditions having taken place this past summer, the production represents a huge effort and zeal, she said.
“There’s no video that you can turn to or Youtube clip or movie that you can buy of this musical,” she said. “We are creating it’s very first version and we’re extremely excited about that creative process, and hoping that our Qualicum audiences are going to love the show.”
The production runs from Feb. 14-March 3.
Tickets are available, ranging from $15 to $25, and can be purchased via www.echoplayers.ca/sc.php.
The NEWS has six pairs of tickets to the ECHO Players Second Chances production on Feb. 14, 15, 16, 27, March 1 and 2. To win a pair of tickets, email firstname.lastname@example.org with you full name, what community you live in, your preferred dates and your phone number.
Winners will be contacted by email Feb. 9.