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Productions From The Past! - 2009

It's A Wonderful Life

Local Writing and Composing Add Zip to It's A Wonderful Life

Kristina Campbell has always been a huge fan of The Andrew Sisters. She and her young family would sometimes listen to 1940s radio shows on podcasts as a fun family thing to do. Now, she gets to be one of The Andrew Sisters in Petrolia Community Theatre's production It's A Wonderful Life, the radio-on-stage version. And even better, she was chosen to write the music and lyrics for the play's 1940s-style commercial jingles.

In this version of the beloved Christmas classic, the stage is set as a live radio play It's A Wonderful Lifeof 1948. All commercials for the radio shows of this era were sung so in this production has The Andrew Sisters (Kristine Campbell, Carol Graham and Danna Andrade) singing about the show's sponsors.

Campbell was a natural choice for composing the jingles. In the summer, word hit the grapevine that there was a great performance of Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy at Petrolia's Art In the Park. When play director Richard Teskey got wind of it, he asked all three to be The Andrew Sisters in the production. Then he learned that Kristina was already singing and writing songs for the alternative folk rock band, Ellis Ave. That's when he offered her the challenging task of composing the jingles for the play. The music had to be good, it had to have an authentic 1940s sound and it had to advertise three real Petrolia businesses – Grandis Jewellers, Lilith lingerie and VanTuyl and Fairbank Solarware.

"There was just no way I was going to say 'no' to this," says Campbell. "This all happened because Carol (Graham) Andrew Sisters - It's A Wonderful Life decided to sing The Andrew Sisters at Art in the Park." The trio, now reunited for the play, also sing a few other songs and there have been many rehearsals in garages and kitchens.

Campbell is no stranger to theatre and was an active actress back in her days at Brescia College of the University of Western Ontario. With Petrolia Community Theatre she has appeared as prickly spinster, a needle-wielding nurse, a simple Scottish maid and as a fairy sprinkling magic dust. As well, she has performed in the oil history productions of Spirit Walk at the Oil Museum of Canada. In her real life, she is an educational therapist in Petrolia who writes literature study guides and homeschools her sons.

The music Campbell is composing will be unique to the Petrolia production, it won't be found in other places where it may be staged. Another dollop of originality is found in the opening scene. It was written by director Richard Teskey and has the blessing of the play's scriptwriter Tony Palermo. This is almost unheard of. Scripts are protected by ironclad copyrights and not one iota of the play can be changed without written permission of the author.

Palermo wrote the radio-on-stage version in 1997 and has a website. This is how Teskey first contacted the playwright in Los Angeles. Teskey was interested in adding some visual zest to the opening of the play and thought the cast of the radio station could be given some personality if they had some lines. He wrote a new opening act and there was a flurry of e-mails between Petrolia and Los Angeles. Finally, Palermo agreed that he could add an act but this had to be completely separate from the actual play. It also had to be free of plot.

Teskey was delighted to get any approval at all. "He was very, very responsive," Teskey happily reported. This new scene will contribute to making the Petrolia Community Theatre production unlike any other.

It's the first time Teskey has directed with Petrolia Community Theatre and he has also worked backstage as a stage manager for the troupe's pantomime, Cinderella. Six years ago, he portrayed Max, the coach for the Von Trapp family singers, in its production of The Sound of Music. And in 1995, he appeared in its play, Caesar and Cleopatra. His acting career actually began on a dare. When the Petrolia high school staged Oklahoma, a friend dared him to try out and a bet was placed. Teskey won a leading role and the bet.

High school ended but his interest in theatre was only beginning. He now works as a councillor for Rebound and has directed five plays with secondary school students, sometimes in partnerships with elementary schools. What's the difference between working with kids and working with adults? It's the energy, says Teskey. With the kids, it's a matter of tamping it down a bit, with the adults, it's revving it up.

Cast
  • Actor: Pete Aarssen
    Radio Personality: Walter Lawrence, straight laced hobby actor. Polite and gentlemanly
    Character in Script: George
  • Actor: Bonnie Harris
    Radio Personality: Maxine Stewart, plays by the book, is diligent and works as a vocal coach when not doing radio
    Character in Script: Mary
  • Actor: Danielle Aarssen
    Radio Personality: Lillian Marx, a diva, unstable and depressed, pretentious
    Character in Script: Violet, Cousin Tilly, Mrs.Davis
  • Actor: TBA
    Radio Personality: Eugene Simpson, is new to show biz, quirky and awkward, is eager to learn
    Character in Script: Clarence
  • Actor: Michael Henry
    Radio Personality: William Donovan, has a nervous quality and is often fretting about something
    Character in Script: Announcer/Superintendent
  • Actor: Steve Carapiet
    Radio Personality: Edward Billings, a gentleman, kind but sometimes forgetful
    Character in Script: Mr. Potter, Mr. Gower, Ernie, Martini, Charlie
  • Actor: Sylvia Fairbank
    Radio Personality: Tess McCormic, SS #14 school teacher, energetic and excitable
    Character in Script: Ma Bailey, Eustace, Impatient Neighbour, Mrs.Thompson
  • Actor: Jimmy Plunkett
    Radio Personality: Fritz Randolph, quiet/shy
    Character in Script: Pop Bailey, Mr. Welsh, Randy
  • Actor: Teresa Ingles
    Radio Personality: June Sumner, emotional and solemn
    Character in Script: Mrs. Hatch, Bank Teller
  • Actor: Bert de Roo
    Radio Personality: Maxwell Collins, a sponsor and executive
    Character in Script: Toll Taker, Mr. Carter, Harry Bailey, Same Wainwright, Uncle Billy
  • Actor: Art Parkes
    Radio Personality: Jack Thompson, sponsor, competitive
    Character in Script: Officer Bert, Sherrif Nick, Eddy
  • Actor: Nathan Calvank
    Radio Personality: Jonnie Clawson, energetic, thoughtful
    Character in Script: Sound FX
  • Actor: Deker Ingles
    Radio Personality: Student of SS #14
    Character in Script: Petey Bailey
  • Actor: Amanda Calvank
    Radio Personality: Student of SS #14
    Character in Script: Zuzu
  • Actor: Shawn Calvank
    Radio Personality: Student of SS #14
    Character in Script: Young George, Jimmy the Parrot, Janie Bailey
  • Actor: Barbara Prescott
    Radio Personality: Dottie Brooks, direct, to the point
    Character in Script: Stage Manager
  • Actor: Carol Graham
    Character in Script: Commercial Singer
  • Actor: Danna Andrade
    Character in Script: Commercial Singer
  • Actor: Kristina Campbell
    Character in Script: Commercial Singer