Coming home for the holidays has been a pop culture theme for at least as far back as when Bing Crosby first wistfully crooned the classic hit I’ll Be Home for Christmas in 1943.
For actor Neil Paterson, coming home is doubly exciting. Paterson moved to Toronto to pursue acting two years ago, only to be called back to his hometown to play George Bailey in Magnus Theatre’s production of It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play.
“I’m looking forward to being back on stage in Thunder Bay and getting to see the theatre communities that brought me up and helped me get to where I am today,” said Paterson said before the play opened earlier this month.
Locals might recognize Paterson from Applauze Productions Broadway Reviews, Cambrian Players’ 2017 production of The Full Monty, and Superior Theatre Festival’s 2017 production of Salt Water Moon.
He landed his first film role the same year in the locally-produced feature film The Discarded, followed by a role in the psychological horror Poor Agnes, which was filmed in Thunder Bay and selected as Best Canadian Film at the 2017 Fantasia Film Festival in Montreal.
“That kind of got the bug in me,” said Paterson, who has been doing film and voice work, recently appearing in the holiday romance A Christmas Village as well as several TV series and shorts.
Paterson grew up watching his father do revue shows of Broadway classics.
He was raised with a heavy focus on music and the arts and is an accomplished musician and vocalist, playing various instruments including piano, violin, guitar and alto saxophone.
His first appearance on the Magnus Theatre stage was more than a decade ago, in a community show his parents were a part of with the Thunder Bay Dental Association.
He stepped in for an actor who couldn’t make it and delivered a couple of lines.
Now it’s come full circle for Paterson.
“I feel like I’ve been fairly lucky so far,” he said.
“The biggest challenge in this career is definitely knowing that everything happens in waves. When a role comes, you’re thankful for it and you put your all into it and find ways to relate and become that character.”
While in town, Paterson was looking forward to spending a snowy Christmas with his family out in the countryside, and maybe getting some of those delicious Hoito pancakes.
See Neil Paterson in It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play running until Saturday.
For tickets visit magnustheatre.com, phone the box office at 807-345-5552 or drop by in person.