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Ucluelet - Tofino Glee Club sets the stage for holiday season

A West Coast Christmas Carol described as “a mash-up between Hamilton and Scrooge”
The Ucluelet-Tofino Glee Club buzzed with excitement at the Ucluelet Community Centre last week as they rehearsed for their upcoming performances of A West Coast Christmas Carol on Friday and Saturday. Doors open at 6 p.m. for 6:30 showtimes each night. (Andrew Bailey photo)

The Ucluelet-Tofino Glee Club is ready to rock the Coast into the holiday spirit this weekend.

About 30 young performers from 6-13 years old have been rehearsing in Tofino and Ucluelet since September and will be showing off their talents during two performances of A West Coast Christmas Carol on Friday and Saturday.

“They’re really excited to do this play,” the program’s co-founder Courtney Johnson told the Westerly News. “They surprise me. I worry about things like, ‘There’s a lot of lines this time’ or, ‘This is a really complicated song’ and then they learn it better than I do and faster than I can teach them. They always surprise me.”

The doors open at 6 p.m. with showtimes at 6:30 p.m. for both shows at the Ucluelet Community Centre’s main stage.

Johnson wrote the original script, which she calls “a mash-up between Hamilton and Scrooge” and said she works on a rough draft of a script and has students in mind for different roles, but sometimes surprises happen.

“I’ve double cast the lead role, Scrooge, and the two girls who are playing it are ones that I did not anticipate would be falling into this role and they’re both very good. One of the girls is a new student actually,” she said. “Once you get that roster, there is a little bit of tweaking. Maybe I have to create a new character for a person or maybe I’m going to add to it so the finishing touches don’t go on for a few weeks.”

She added that students themselves sometimes add to their characters or the story.

“A lot of times I’ll be doing something and they’ll come up with something. They’ll come up with a character or the way they want their character to do something that I haven’t thought up and I will tell them, ‘Yes, that’s awesome’ and we put it into the play, so it isn’t actually just me doing this,” she said.

“It’s not just me giving them something to learn, practice and recite. They create this magic all on their own. I show them the steps and I help them with their speaking parts and I teach them the songs, but they’re the ones that do it. It’s theirs. It becomes theirs and it’s their thing to show you.”

She hopes to see big audiences at both performances on the weekend.

“They’re your community members. They’re kids and they’re the next generation. They need to know that they matter and they need to know that you hear what they do and you see what they do and they will surprise you,” she said.

“One of the things that people say to me often is that ‘Well, it’s just kids’ and sometimes I really hate that word ‘just’ because it’s not just kids, it’s kids and they turn into these Broadway performers when that curtain goes up and that night gets going. They channel something amazing and they put it out into the audience. It’s not something you would expect to see and I’m very honoured that I can bring out this part of them to show their friends and their families and their community.”

Tickets for the show are available at Image West in Ucluelet and Gaia Grocery in Tofino and will be available at the door. Johnson added people looking for tickets can reach out to her at 250-266-2077.

“In towns like Ukee and Tofino, that’s what you do. We have to support each other and you’re little community members are no exception to that support.”

Johnson co-founded the Glee program with Sarah Hogan in 2013 and this will be the program’s 24th live performance.

“I’m very proud that this was started over a decade ago and it’s still going strong,” she said.

She added the program is only possible because of the support it receives from its performers, families and the local business community.

“My biggest gratitude is to the kids because they’re the ones that keep coming back and keep making me do this…Come and watch them and see for yourself,” she said.

“Anybody that is lucky enough to work with children, you really do put yourself into what you do and I’m really honoured that the community sees that. For this to be going on for over a decade and still have that kind of support and for that support to grow is overwhelmingly wonderful for me.”

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Andrew Bailey

About the Author: Andrew Bailey

I arrived at the Westerly News as a reporter and photographer in January 2012.
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