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By Bridgette M. Redman
It’s good that John Lepard knows how to multi-task – both on-stage and off. On Dec. 21, he’ll open a two-week run of “This Wonderful Life” at Tipping Point Theatre, a one-man show that he has performed for two different seasons at Williamston Theatre. In the show, he plays a multitude of roles, retelling the story of the classic Christmas movie special, “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
Rehearsal for this show overlapped Lepard directing and house managing “Ebenezer” at Williamston Theatre, directing “Almost, Maine” at Lansing Community College, and teaching two classes there. It has made the holiday season a busier-than-usual one for the executive director of Williamston Theatre. It’s made easier, Lepard said, by his love for this particular show and the welcoming atmosphere at Tipping Point Theatre.
“I love the space,” he said, referring to the Tipping Point thrust stage. “It is a theater that has a really nice feel to it. Some theaters you might feel a little tension. This one, every time you walk into it you feel like it’s home. I’m enjoying it. Just going to a show there, you feel welcome and comfortable.”
Lepard plays George Bailey, Mr. Potter and all the other characters of Bedford Falls as Bailey considers taking his life because life has not turned out the way he had hoped. Instead, he is taken on a journey to see what life in his hometown would have been like if he’d never been born.
“I love the story, I love the movie,” Lepard said. “Audiences love it and I feed off of them. It’s new every night.”
James Kuhl, artistic director for Tipping Point Theatre, agrees with Lepard that it is a perfect show for their audiences this month.
“There was this gap in the calendar that was right around Christmas time,” he said. “We wanted a simple show that is Christmasy and filled with heartfelt feelings and that Christmas tradition. ‘This Wonderful Life’ came to mind. Williamston and John had done it for a couple years and it was a great success.”
Having seen the show himself during one of the Williamston runs, Kuhl said he was certain this one-man show was one that his audiences would love.
“It’s really a sign of a great performance, when you leave the theater and you can’t imagine another actor doing it,” Kuhl said. “John is one of those actors. He’s such a great storyteller. When that story is handed to him, it’s been put in very capable hands to tell that story and to carry the weight of that tradition. Being the stellar actor that John is, the story couldn’t be put in more worthy hands.”
Tipping Point has brought in the entire artistic team from the original runs in Williamston. Director Tony Caselli has made the readjustments necessary to fit the new space and is using the same sound and lighting designs from their previous productions. They’re even bringing in the same stage manager and set builder.
“It’s fun bringing all the guys back together again and doing the show,” Lepard said. “We’re kind of hired guns for this one. (Kuhl) asked us if we would get together and do the show. It’s very cool that they asked us and we were happy to do it again.”
Kuhl said it is a great bonus for his audiences to be able to see this show, explaining that it is uncommon for audiences in Southeast Michigan to travel to mid-Michigan and vice versa and arrangements like this show benefit everyone.
“Knowing the great theater they do up there in Williamston, this is a perfect opportunity to bring it down here to get a fresh new audience,” Kuhl said. “We know everyone at the theaters and we go see the work that we’re doing. So when an opportunity arises to show off each other’s work, it is a lot easier to cut through the red tape and bring a show here. We say ‘Let’s do it,’ have a handshake and then set it up. It’s great to have that sort of relationship where we’re all in the trenches together and we’re all looking out for each other.”
‘This Wonderful Life’
Tipping Point Theatre, 361 E. Cady St., Northville. Friday-Sunday, Dec. 21 – 31, plus Monday, Dec. 31. $30. 248-347-0003. http://www.tippingpointtheatre.com