A little light shines on Fernwood this holiday season with the latest offering on the Belfry Theatre stage. This Little Light, written by CCPA alumnus Brad L’écuyer and Erin Macklem, opens this week showcasing a classic tale set in modern Fernwood.
The fresh new musical balances holiday hilarity and sombre reminders to love one another, says Jesse Deutscher, the Canadian College of the Performing Arts Company C actor who plays the role of the little match girl.
“She’s kind of set in a contemporary time but I like to think she exists outside of time. She represents a bigger picture,” Deutscher said. “I think what’s so great about this show is it’s accessible for kids but the story is really poignant for all ages.”
The modern reimagining of the short Hans Christian Anderson story is set in present-day Fernwood and features special guests from the neighbourhood alongside members of the Canadian College of the Performing Arts’ Company C and choirs from George Jay elementary, Central middle and Victoria High schools.
“There’s a really, really fun musical number called Market Mayhem that’s all the Christmas hustle and bustle that’s really fun,” said Company C performer Hannah Ockenden. “It’s close to the beginning of the show, so it’s a really nice way to welcome the audience to the story. It’s going to be a really fun number.”
Ockenden, who performs among the quartet of carollers, lives in Fernwood and loves the familiarity with her neighbourhood.
“It’s familiar faces and familiar names,” she said. “It almost has that Christmas pantomime element where local things are going on … you feel like you’re included.”
Deutscher too lives not far from the Belfry neighbourhood.
“I love the Fernwood way of life,” she said. “It’s got a really unique vibe to it, there’s so much artisanal craft and food and everybody seems to know each other.”
Both performers enjoy the onstage work with Macklem throughout the process. “It’s interesting doing this new musical with the playwright in the room with us,” Deutscher said.
This sweet and tuneful musical has been in development at the Belfry for over two years.
“We get to be the first to take on it,” Ockenden said. “This is the first show that I’ve worked on where it’s been done this way, where it’s more of a creating process rather than a rehearsal staging process. … It’s really interesting to see how some things have come to life.”
Both also agree the story carries a message everyone should take home with them.
“Along with the really fun side of the show there’s also a really heartwarming and sentimental side to it, the story that it tells and the ideals that it reminds us to keep in mind,” said Ockenden. “A big element of the story is to not forget the things that are really important, like the people around us and caring for the people that need caring for. It keeps the integrity of that (Little Match Girl) story and pairs it with some good Christmas fun.”
Deutscher expects audiences will leave haunted by the song One Little Voice, that seems to afflict the cast regularly.
“It’s a fun little song I think people will leave humming it,” she said. “We do.”
This Little Light, directed by Jane Johansen runs at the Belfry Theatre in Fernwood through Dec. 23.
Visit belfry.bc.ca for ticket information.