When the beaming director, Becky Teague, took to the Crighton Theatre stage to introduce the current production of “It’s A Wonderful Life,” it was easy to see she was describing a labor of love. Ms. Teague not only directed the play, she also wrote this original adaptation (based on the classic Frank Capra film of the same name), and designed the attractive rotating pop-out sets that would frame the story. I think Ms. Teague would do well to try and publish the delightful script she created so that other companies can follow the Crighton lead in spreading Christmas cheer.
Even before the curtain went up, a troupe of Carolers were on stage to delight the audience with songs of the season that included a smooth and reverent “Silent Night,” and a fine performance of the complex “Carol of the Bells.” They would return with more familiar holiday tunes during the intermission. Choral Director, Eddie Crowell, clearly did his homework.
The talented cast brought to life the many characters so familiar to fans of the heartwarming film and its story of kindly George Bailey who gives up his own dreams to save his family’s Building & Loan business, while helping his neighbors outwit the conniving Mr. Potter. Talented Ken Williams has the role of Bailey that was created by Jimmy Stewart in the movie. With his rich, clear voice, Williams gives a touching performance. Amazingly, he has the easy-going and likeable persona that we associate with Mr. Stewart, while even resembling the star with his tall, slender build and boyish good looks. But best of all is the very natural way he fully embraces the caring, good-neighbor persona of George Bailey throughout all the struggles he must confront. Most of these emanate from the avaricious Potter, played with suitable greed by Joe Viser. All the characters are arrayed in fine 1940’s costumes from designer, Lynn Peverill.
Bailey’s sometimes cheerful and sometimes desolate Uncle Billy, is delightfully played by Harley Dampier. Claire Johnson brings patience and warm understanding to the character of Bailey’s wife, Mary, while young Joshua Hillman and Anastasia Caputo nicely portray the Bailey children. Tom Leroy is wonderful as the angel, Clarence, sent to guide George back from the edge of despair while showing him what the world would have been like if he had never existed. It’s a lesson we all need to consider.
A large and talented supporting cast supplies the townspeople who learn the real meaning of community from George and later come to his rescue in his time of trouble. The story’s moral is worth repeating: “No man is a failure who has friends!”
(The Courier 11.30.03)
(The Villager 12.4.03)