Arts & Culture

It’s a Wonderful Life meets Modern Family in Christmas tale

By Lorraine Graves

Published 2:41 PST, Fri November 22, 2019

Last Updated: 2:45 PST, Mon December 9, 2019

Last Christmas, Richmond resident Jovanni Sy played a curmudgeon in Gateway’s It’s a Wonderful Life. This year, he’s in the Arts Club production of It’s a Wonderful Christmas-ish Holiday Miracle. While it doesn’t seem like much of a stretch for this Richmond resident, it is. 

Director Chelsea Haberlin describes the new Canadian comedy as “a Wonderful Life meets Modern Family”—a play that approaches the less camera-ready aspects of the holiday season with humour and a generous helping of whimsy.

It’s a Wonderful Christmas-ish Holiday Miracle follows a recently departed spirit, Esther, stopped at the gate to the afterlife by a chipper border guard and sent back to earth to deal with her unfinished business. 

She has relationships to resolve with her estranged daughter, Miriam, Miriam’s ex-husband, Steven, and their two children: a rebellious teen and precocious little brother. 

Sy plays Steven, the recently separated dad with two teenage kids. 

Though he played it well last year, being a curmudgeon seems a bit of a stretch for the pleasant and kind Sy. This year, he stretches himself as a performer in a different way.

“I get to play a lot of piano on stage which is both a delight and a challenge. I haven't really played a lot in the last 30 years,” he says. 

Since leaving Richmond’s Gateway Theatre’s artistic director role, Sy has had little down time. He just finished a run in Gateway’s China Doll. 

The trend looks to be continuing.

“I have a week-long break after this show closes (Dec. 22) and then I start rehearsals for Noises Off at the Arts Club where I'll play the role of Frederick,” he says. A character, yet again, different from the actor-playwright-director’s true persona. 

Another way that Sy stretches himself is to write plays. His well-honed piece, Nine Dragons, did very well when produced in Calgary and Richmond. So what’s next on that front?

“Next year, I'll start writing a prequel to Nine Dragons that looks at Detective Tommy Lam 15 years earlier,” Sy says. 

Asked about which he prefers, long or short runs, Sy says, “I think the longest run was about ten weeks. If the show is enjoyable, I just want to keep going.”

And keep going, is what Sy looks to be doing for quite some time to come. 

For now, you can catch him in the new take on a Christmas miracle story at the Arts Club’s Goldcorp Stage at the BMO Theatre Centre in Olympic Village. 

It’s a Wonderful Christmas-ish Holiday Miracle runs through Dec. 22. With the Olympic Village stop on the Canada Line nearby and parking a challenge, it’s worth taking Canada Line. The theatre is fully wheelchair accessible. 

For tickets, go to 


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