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Holiday Jubilation a momentous occasion for popular Island theatre

First live performance on Chemainus stage since March 2020 to make the Christmas season shine
Chemainus Theatre’s artistic director Mark DuMez, left, and managing director Randy Huber check out the holiday background on the stage for upcoming production with performer Georgia Bennett. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Christmas is coming and the return to the stage is the best gift of all for the Chemainus Theatre staff and its patrons.

That will be happening Dec. 8-23 with Holiday Jubilation, a Christmas concert, live on the main stage.

“It feels good to be back in this space,” said the theatre’s artistic director Mark DuMez, as preparations are well under way for the show.

“To say we’re excited about it would be an understatement,” added managing director Randy Huber. “It’s been a long time.”

March 13, 2020, to be exact, was the last live performance on the theatre stage when COVID shut down the Marvelous Wonderettes early and then everything else on the schedule for 2020, with 2021 being a no-go until now.

Related story: Wonderettes bring the fun while belting out the hits

“It’s seared in my mind,” said DuMez of the infamous date that led to a prolonged dark period not only for the Chemainus Theatre, but the entire industry.

After more than 20 months, the doors are finally reopening with a special Christmas concert that’s certain to warm the heart, especially with everything that’s happened.

The show will be a sentimental holiday concert with well-known musicians and singers, including Chemainus’ own Georgia Bennett, Crofton’s Ed Peekeekoot, Heather Burns, Kraig Waye and Michelle Bardach to celebrate hope and healing with uplifting holiday and seasonal songs spiced with the right blend of seasonal stories inspiring love, joy and peace to all.

There will be solo sets, some group works and original arrangements, said DuMez.

“Between it, I’ll be doing a bit of introduction and some fun holiday stuff. We have really gone with holiday jubilation to be a celebrative time to being back in the space together.”

The gap between stage shows has been bridged with the Playbill Presents Cabaret Series of dining and live entertainment that has included Bennett and she’s been thrilled at the chance to do that.

“It felt amazing,” she said. “It rekindled the love I have for performing.”

“Lots of people have enjoyed the Cabaret,” Huber indicated. “We’ve been able to run those with public health orders.”

Bennett voiced Songs of the Screen for the second time (back by popular demand), with the last performance just ending Friday, that featured Oscar-winning soundtracks, movie musical scores and familiar hits from past decades.

“I decided to do that there because I’d been watching so many movies and media,” she reasoned.

Lots of the material from the 1970s and ’80s was familiar to the audience.

“I think it was just a nice way for people to know the music I was singing and not that they’d heard it a thousand times,” confided Bennett.

She was in Toronto when COVID restrictions first happened to idle the industry. Many of her acting friends were contemplating back-up plans if theatre never came back.

“I fell into that as well, but never pursued it,” said Bennett. “I’ll just wait as well.”

She spent the summer of 2020 in Chemainus and eventually gave up her apartment in Toronto last November to move back here.

Of course, Bennett is not stranger to the magic of Christmas in Chemainus, having previously appeared in Little Women at the theatre in 2018 and she’s looking forward to rekindling that with this special Christmas production. And her biggest fan, grandmother Sandra Heydon, will be there with bells on.

“As soon as you step back in you’re going to feel the warmth of the stage lighting and the performance,” said DuMez.

“It’s fantastic to be gearing up hopefully to stay for the road bumps ahead,” noted Huber. “It’s definitely our intent to bring a full season of theatre in 2022.”

Tickets for Holiday Jubilation are already going fast. Wednesdays and Thursdays are at 7:30 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m.

“The restaurant is open; it’s a three-course plated dinner beforehand,” Huber added.

There’s also Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday matinees at 2 p.m., with a brunch before the Sunday 2 p.m. shows.

Seating is extremely limited, masks are mandatory and proof of vaccine and government-issued ID are required. Capacity will be in accordance with current public health orders.

One seat will be maintained between each party, restricting the theatre capacity.

Welcome Back. It feels so good for Mark DuMez, Georgia Bennett and Randy Hunber in their respective roles for the return of Chemainus Theatre live performances on the stage. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Chemainus Theatre artistic director Mark DuMez, left, and managing director Randy Huber get into the holiday mood with performer Georgia Bennett while checking out the stage scenes for Holiday Jubilation. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Don Bodger

About the Author: Don Bodger

I've been a part of the newspaper industry since 1980 when I began on a part-time basis covering sports for the Ladysmith-Chemainus Chronicle.
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