Blyth's McGregor brings on locals for newest show at The Livery
BY DENNY SCOTT
Blyth’s Duncan McGregor will once again be bringing his vision to a community stage with Mistletoes and Tales, a production at the Livery Theatre in Goderich that will feature two distinct stories.
McGregor, who has directed and penned plays for years, hasn’t had a show on the stage since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, cancelling a play he was working on at the time. He now returns with a play that he says will fit all ages and kindle the spirit of Christmas.
Mistletoes and Tales includes The Tomten’s Christmas, as written by McGregor himself, and Libby’s Christmas Eve Adventure, written by the late Russel E. Erickson and adapted by McGregor.
The Tomten’s Christmas is a reimagining of a Swedish folklore tale about the elfen Tomten. The play is set on a farm of a Swedish family who is marking Christmas for the first time in Canada just after the turn of the 20th century.
McGregor read a book about the fantasy creatures and found it very poetic and parts of the tale very beautiful. He said that, when the Tomten speak, the animals understand his, and understand the Tomten is there to protect the farm and the animals.
“I love that poetic image of an elf that protects the farm,” he said.
The original tale didn’t have much conflict, McGregor said, so in his version, the Tomten comes face to face with a “strong and determined” fox looking to raid the farm.
Libby’s Christmas Eve Adventure is a gender-flipped version of Erickson’s Warton’s Christmas Eve Adventure. Both tales focus on a toad meeting new friends at Christmas, but McGregor said that Erickson’s original included primarily male characters, while his version includes more female characters.
McGregor, during his interview with The Citizen, was joined by Cheryl Peach of Blyth, who is the stage manager for the show, as well as one of the performers, and Capucine Onn, also of Blyth, who narrates the show, as well as being responsible for its music.
All three looked forward to getting back on stage, with McGregor saying that he had a production of Charlotte’s Web ready to perform in April of 2020 that didn’t move forward due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He said that, because of that, he hasn’t had a show in three years.
He said he loves both tales, as they focus on Christmas, celebrations and family.
Peach agreed, and said the agricultural nature of The Tomten’s Christmas makes it fitting for Huron County.
At first, Onn said she wondered how the stories fit together, but after working on them, she said they all make sense. She said the plays are diverse when compared, but they have similar themes of kindness and both invoke the Christmas spirit.
Peach said there are underlying themes for both plays, including being grateful at Christmas and taking care of loved ones by sharing our blessings.
“Those are good lessons and they bring the shows together,” she said.
Onn said there will be plenty of Christmas carols within the two shows, including some that will be easily recognizable for the children in the audience and a few that may need to be carried by the more experienced members of the audience. She also said that musical effects are integrated into the play, something that she feels is essential to a good production.
There are nine actors involved in the production of the show from as far away as Zurich and Ripley, Onn said, with Peach saying there are dozens involved behind the scenes. McGregor said it takes numbers like that to make a show like this, and said the product, a family show and a shared experience for young and old, will be the proof of that.
Both Peach and Onn lauded McGregor’s ability to bring a “creative community” together, leading to the creation of such plays. Both said it was difficult to say no to his “energy” when he set his mind on producing a new play.
Peach said McGregor always praises the efforts of the cast instead of just directing them, which makes the work all the more satisfying. Onn agreed, saying that McGregor’s weekly e-mails don’t just include a schedule of rehearsals, but also notes on all the great things that each member of the cast and crew have tackled.
Both were happy to wear multiple hats for the show, saying it allows them to push the production forward on multiple fronts and also be directly involved with what’s going on on stage. They are also both excited to once again be performing for children, saying there will be a whole new generation of theatre-going youth to take in the show after the pandemic cancelled theatrical performances for such an extended period of time.
The show will be on the stage for 7:30 p.m. productions on Dec. 8, 9, 15 and 16, 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. shows on Dec. 10 and 17 and 2 p.m. shows on Dec. 11 and 18.
For more information, call The Livery Theatre at 519-524-6262.