In the midst of a rather gloomy January, there’s at least one sunny place in Sarnia where the mood is light and the music is fun.
It’s the rehearsal hall for Holly Wenning’s upcoming show “I Am Sunshine,” a celebration of music and dance starring local young adults with exceptionalities.
The curtain will open on the one-hour variety show in just a couple of weeks, showcasing the talent and work ethic of a portion of the population that is getting a rare opportunity to perform.
“The show is so incredibly heartwarming,” says Wenning who has 30-plus years of award-winning theatre experience behind her.
Seven years ago, Wenning and her daughter agreed to help Pathways Health Centre celebrate its 40th anniversary with a show featuring the centre’s children and youth. It was such a success that Wenning continued to produce an annual Pathways show for four years before turning it over to other volunteers.
“Now that I’m retired, I have more time and realize that the kids who did it with me at Pathways have now aged out,” said Wenning. “They’re over 21 and nothing exists where they can show off their talents.”
That’s why she wrote and is directing “I Am Sunshine,” focusing on the strengths of 12 young adults with exceptionalities, proving that they can memorize, follow routine and perform.
Numbers include sunny tunes like “Walking on Sunshine,” “Cover me in Sunshine,” “Sunshine on my Shoulders,” and the ever-popular “Uptown Funk.”
Wenning is working with 11 volunteers to produce the show. Three are support workers who she said are not shy about performing on stage too.
“I Am Sunshine” features an audience singalong. Wenning herself will perform Dionne Warwick’s “That’s What Friends Are For.”
Sponsors include Redeemer Christian Reformed Church where rehearsals are taking place, as well as the Down Syndrome Association Lambton County. Association vice-president Helen VanSligtenhorst, whose daughter Sydney Vrolyk is in the show, will address the audience.
“We appreciate Holly who is willing to take a chance on these kids,” said VanSligtenhorst. “They just shine. I guarantee there won’t be a dry eye in the place.”
Aside from the onstage experience, VanSligtenhorst said preparing for the show is giving participants a sense of community and a place where friendships are made.
Other guest appearances include sax player Chris Molyneaux and local high school soloist Noah Leonard. Rosemary Travis is creating a video montage set to a song by Cassandra Kubinski called “Not So Different.” Travis’ montage will open the show and reflect the process of putting such a unique project together.
“This is a very positive experience for all of us,” said Wenning. “These are the coolest adults I’ve ever worked with, and they work their tails off. They just light up the stage.
“I know people will be moved.”
IF YOU GO:
WHAT: “I Am Sunshine – A Celebration of Music & Dance” presented by Expressive Arts 21+
WHEN: Jan. 27 at 7 p.m.; Jan. 28 @ 2 p.m.
WHERE: Sarnia Library Auditorium
TICKETS: $10 each. Available at Harbour Bay Clothing on Front Street and at the door.
The Arts Journal is a regular feature highlighting what’s going on culturally in our community. Send your ideas to [email protected].