he search for just the right actors to play the roles of three young boys in ECHO Players’ production of Blitzen wasn’t easy for director Eileen Butts, but her hard work paid off.
The Christmas play for the whole family now taking place on stage at the Village Theatre in Qualicum Beach has a solid cast that delivers a heart warming story.
The play, written by Julian Wiles, is based on a true story of a South Carolina family who survives hurricane Hugo.
One of the largest hurricanes ever to hit the coast, it devastated the Harrison family home, particularly the bedroom shared by two brothers, Stephen and Andy.
Younger brother Andy writes to Santa Claus to ask him to fix up their room for Christmas. Of course, no one, especially the jaded Stephen, thinks this is possible, and then Blitzen shows up.
The two young actors who play the brothers are bang on and as the two interacted with each other it was easy to forget they were on stage acting, not just hanging out in their own bedroom.
Isaiah McAleese who plays the young and sweet Andy Harrison is no stranger to the stage and it shows. His performance was brilliant. As he bounced on his bed, and waved his make believe ninja sword while interacting with his family, the young actor was a true star. McAleese was right at home on the stage and he portrayed his character with incredible charm and ease. If they handed out Tony Awards in Qualicum Beach, he surely would deserve one for the strength of his performance.
Daniel Handley, who plays Stephen Harrison, had somewhat of a brooding character to portray and he nailed it. Blitzen is Harrison’s third play with ECHO Players and his confidence on stage comes through in his performance, particularly in his monologues where he is alone on stage talking directly to the audience.
The two actors are backed up by a great supporting cast and Laura Devlin Aitken who portrays the plumber Blitzen gives a standout performance. Aitken recently appeared as Mrs. Dorgan in ECHO Theatre’s production of Laura but in her role as Blitzen her acting reached a whole new level. Her scenes with Stephen and Andy came across as genuine and very natural. Her role as the peppy plumber deserves accolades and theatre-goers are lucky she is back from her 16-year absence on the stage.
Rounding out the cast are Judy Christopherson who plays Grandma Harrison, Gerry Fraser who plays Grandpa Harrison and Devin Owpaluk who plays Alex the boy down the road. These three actors also contributed solid performances.
The set definitely provided the right mood for the play and the construction crew should be commended for creating such a realistic backdrop for the play to unfold on. When the curtains open, the audience is certain to be wowed by the attention to detail.
Stephen and Andy’s room, like most of their house, is still in shambles and the glaring evidence of the storm’s aftermath is recreated with great imagination and attention to detail.
Blitzen is about beliefs and believing and how if you really want to believe in magic, sometimes you have to make the magic yourself.
Director Butts should also take a bow for pulling it all together and providing the perfect Christmas play that is sure to leave you feeling good.
There are 13 performances of Blitzen until December 31.
The evening performances are at 7 p.m. while the matinees are at 2 p.m. There are no performances on Dec. 23, 24 and 25. The Village Theatre located at 110 West 2nd Avenue in Qualicum Beach. Call 250-752-3522 for tickets.