Alex Nicoll grew up as a member of the performing arts community in the Comox Valley.
He graduated from Vanier, worked with all the usual community theatres, then headed to the bright lights of the big city (Vancouver) to hone his skills and ultimately head down the career path of a professional actor.
He returned to the Comox Valley during the pandemic, and the community is benefiting from his talents.
“I am still working professionally, but I am back living in the community now,” he said. “It was good timing for me, actually. I had been living out of a suitcase for a long time, taking gigs across the country, and I’ve wanted to slow down, ease the pace.”
Nicoll has switched roles for the upcoming Three Legged Dog (3LD) Productions Society’s spring production of the musical adventure Into The Woods.
He is the play’s director.
“It is my first time directing an adult show, by myself,” said Nicoll. “I have assistant-directed before, I’ve directed youth theatre before, but this is definitely the most experienced cast I have wrangled, that’s for sure.”
Into the Woods is a 1987 musical (book by James Lapine; music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim), which takes the plots of several Brothers Grimm fairytales, and delves deeper into the “ever after” conclusion of typical fairytales.
“All fairytales tend to end with ‘they lived happily ever after,’ but they never go into what that looks like,” said Nicoll. “So Act II is much darker than Act I. It’s one of these shows that has these great themes and morals and songs, but it doesn’t beat you over the head with it. The show is a comedy, actually. It’s non-stop hilarious, and then all-of-a-sudden someone dies, and it’s quite serious.”
The show took Broadway by storm in 1987, winning three major Tony Awards (Best Score, Best Book, and Best Actress in a Musical for Canadian Joanna Gleason), and being nominated for seven others.
“One thing Stephen Sondheim does really well with this production, is he introduces the songs in a more seamless manner than the classic musicals,” said Nicoll. “So it’s not jarring when someone breaks into song – it’s not a separate thing. It’s all part of the scene.”
Nicoll said the combination of the script itself, with the cast he has assembled, will make this latest 3LD production one of the best yet.
“In this case, because we picked a really good show – it’s a fantastic piece on its own – and we have a great team, and talent begets talent,” he said. “We really lucked out. We have a fantastic cast.”
Chelsea Keene is producing the show, and among the actors are Matthew Baker and Erin Foster (playing the baker and the baker’s wife).
Carol Anne Parkinson is the musical director.
“She is a phenomenal talent – we are so lucky to have her,” said Nicoll. “And Carrie Lemke, who is a music teacher in town, is playing Cinderella’s evil stepmother, and doing a phenomenal job. All these people who are professional artists… have come out to play with us, which is fantastic.”
Comox Valley newcomer Elisabeth Jolliffe is a professional make-up/prosthetics artist, who has worked a lot on major TV series such as Once Upon a Time, and Riverdale.
“We are very fortunate that she wants to be a part of our community,” said Nicoll. “She is helping make our witch and our wolf come to life.”
The witch is played by Jennifer Kelly, from Parksville.
“She is yet another ex-professional who is an amazing talent with many performing and directing credits, including stints on Norwegian Cruise Lines,” said Nicoll.
Nicoll, who has been involved with 3LD since its inception, was thrilled to hear that the committee had landed Into The Woods.
“I have been involved, in all but one of their shows, to some capacity, but when I heard a rumour that they were selecting this show, I felt I really wanted to direct. So I sent them a message … so far it has been phenomenal.
“The thing about community theatre, it’s all about the team – who you are working with – and it is so easy when everyone around you is so competent, which is the case here. And that goes for the actors as well. In this particular piece, if I had to micro-manage all of the actors and walk them through each of their scenes, it would be a monster to put together. But because I can just show up with ideas, and they are going to come up with things, and I can just facilitate them, it makes it easy.”
Nicoll said that while this experience has broadened his horizons, he still hopes to act.
“I would love to continue directing, but I don’t think it will ever take away my love of performing,” he said. “So I hope to continue directing, continue acting, and continue growing. I would love to be a full-time professional again, but I also love living in the Valley. So if I can make the two of them work together, then great.”
Into the Woods plays March 15-18 at the Sid Williams Theatre.
Visit sidwilliamstheatre.com for all the ticket information.