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The stars align for Holiday Jubilation in Chemainus

Christmas concert brings together some amazing talent
Mark DuMez, Georgia Bennett and Randy Huber couldn’t be happier about the return to the stage at the Chemainus Theatre. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Holiday Jubilation is serving a dual purpose at the Chemainus Theatre.

Yes, the Christmas concert is a celebration of the season, but it also marks the long-awaited return to the stage at the theatre for the first time since the COVID outbreak shut down performances in March of 2020.

Related story: Funding campaigns help Chemainus Theatre stage a comeback

On its website, the theatre is calling it “an unapologetically joyful, unabashedly simple and somewhat sentimental holiday concert with friends to reopen the theatre and celebrate hope and healing.”

There will be uplifting festive songs from musicians, including locals Ed Peekeekoot of Crofton and Georgia Bennett of Chemainus as well as Kraig Waye and Michelle Bardach. Vancouver Islander Heather Burns is the music director and doing some background vocals, with the contributions of a couple of instrumentalists and the theatre’s artistic director Mark DuMez thrown into the mix of seasonal fare inspiring love, joy and peace.

Holiday Jubilation is on now until Dec. 23, with evening performances Wednesday through Saturday, and matinees Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.

Bardach, 33, is thrilled to be part of the lineup during a continual coming-out for theatres from the COVID lockdown that she’s already been experiencing in other locations.

Bardach grew up in Surrey and currently lives in Kitsilano. After graduating from the Musical Theatre Program at Capilano University, she’s been working steadily ever since as an actor, singer and writer.

Bardach has an impressive resume that’s taken her to many parts of the country. As restrictions ease, Prince Edward Island is another place that’s on her radar.

“I’m a musical theatre first person,” Bardach said. “That’s where my heart is.”

With no live theatre for a while, “I managed to find success in other related avenues,” she added. “I did quite a bit of voice-overs this year.”

Bardach has been honoured to perform with two Indigenous music groups: The Tillicum Shantie Project and M’Girl. She’s looking forward to future gigs with the bands.

The Chemainus Theatre holds a special place in her heart, stemming from her role as Eponine in Les Miserables in 2014.

“It was amazing,” she recalled. “It was one of the most beautiful shows I’ve done. It was actually my very first professional gig.

“I could play this role forever. That role was a springboard for me. I was working with professionals for the first time and a director who really believes in me. I loved spending a summer in this beautiful place. It’s very charming and relaxing.”

Bardach doesn’t want seven long years to pass again between appearances at the Chemainus Theatre.

“I’m really grateful to be here,” she said. “I’m hoping this is the second beginning of working here more.”

Christmas is an emotional time in many ways for Bardach.

“I love Christmas songs,” she said. “My mother had me sing Christmas songs as a child. I would perform at malls and outdoor festivals.”

Audiences are sure to enjoy this performance from Bardach and the others.

“We all have solo songs,” she added. “Sometimes we have back-up for each other.”

There will also be duets and a quartet for a great blending of voices.

Peekeekoot, 72, who has lived in Crofton for 35 years, was simply born to perform and loves the Chemainus Theatre.

“This is a little jewel and I live not very far,” he said. “Usually, I travel to play in places. This is a really good gig for me.”

Peekeekoot grew up northwest of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan and has fond memories of playing Christmas songs on the Prairies. He worked his way up through a long musical career from the ground floor.

“I started playing bars in Vancouver and all over Western Canada,” Peekeekoot recalled.

A chance to perform in the recent Playbill Presents series at the Chemainus Theatre’s Playbill Dining Room was an enjoyable experience. “People enjoyed it, they laughed and clapped,” he added.

Being part of the Holiday Jubilation singers is the icing on the Christmas cake for him.

“They’re a really good group,” he praised. “They’re top-notch, I’ll tell you.”