The horses of Caravan Farm Theatre await the cue to draw their sleigh of audience members into a magical Christmas story and the woods of this spectacular setting near Armstrong. (Photo by Tim Matheson)

North Okanagan theatre taking fans on Joyride

Caravan Farm Theatre in Spallumcheen presents Joyride, an ode to It’s a Wonderful Life

Close your eyes and imagine it, that last scene in It’s a Wonderful Life when George Bailey abandons the snowfallen bridge and returns home to kiss his wife and children, and watch as Uncle tips out a basket of bills collected all over town—a pile that grows as one friend and then another steps forward.

“It’s such a beautiful portrayal of what it means to find one’s place in a community,” said Estelle Shook, who, along with the cast of eight professional actors, is co-creating Caravan Farm Theatre’s winter show — Joyride — based on Philip Van Doren Stein’s The Greatest Gift, written in 1943, which became the inspiration for Frank Capra’s film It’s a Wonderful Life. The show runs Dec. 3 to Jan. 2.

At a time many have not been able to gather or feel community so strongly, and yet are also reflecting deeply about belonging and connection, Shook says this classic text seemed a perfect story to explore together for Caravan’s first winter show in two years. And, of course, flip the tale on its head — in a way that captures both the significance of the season and the sheer gaiety.

“Our goal is that the audience feels like they’ve just been at the best party ever — that the hosts were so generous and fun that they were just swept along in the pleasure of it all.”

How will Joyride do just that?

Well, George Bailey won’t be played by Jimmy Stewart. The role might not even be played by a male, and not even the actors know who will ‘draw’ that role for each of the 70 performances in the opening scene’s parlour game. The show’s eight “dazzling,” professional actors include Laara Sadiq, Allan Louis, George Young, Cheyenne Scott, Agnes Tong, Brahm Taylor, Jesse Gervais and Gloria Morgan.

“We wanted to explore where and how this story has meaning in our current world. And we want to do this with our audience, not for our audience,” said Shook. “It’s a collaborative experience, in the way charades or 20 questions is immersive, interactive, and enjoyably collaborative. To achieve this, we have assembled an incredible cast of actors, including two community members Gloria Morgan and George Young.”

And then there’s the music.

Celebrated Vancouver composer Marguerite Witvoet selected a handful of recognizable Canadian pop songs, gave them a Christmas twist and then arranged them to be performed by the eight actors, who make an impressive choir.

“The familiarity of these songs gives us dramatic range for the underscoring, and adds an element of ‘name that tune.’”

Shook says everyone at Caravan is eager to welcome actors and teamsters back to the farm, and audiences too.

“We’re thrilled to be welcoming our audience back to the winter show. For many, this is their Christmas gift to one another, so we are working hard to make it a meaningful one.”

Tickets for Joyride, on sale now, are available by phone at 1-866-546-8533 or by visiting Caravan online at caravanfarmtheatre.com.

READ MORE: Column: The early days of the Caravan Farm Theatre

READ MORE: North Okanagan outdoor theatre plans vibrant, varied season

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Live theatre