Monday, November 19, 2018

It's a Wonderful Life

“It’s a Wonderful Life” has been a favorite ever since it appeared on our movie screens in 1946.  The Winters Theatre company presented a production in 2010 and are reprising the show, though a different version, this one by Philip Grecian. Again, Anita Ahuja directs.

There are many, many scenes and the lengthy set changes make the first act, especially, drag somewhat.  There were also some first night problems with telephones that didn’t ring when they should and did ring when they should not and a few other glitches, which I know will be smoothed out as the run progresses, but all in all, Winters has given a loving tribute to this beloved holiday classic.   

Scott Graf dominates as Clarence Oddbody, the angel who has been trying for 200 years to earn his wings.  He has his chance when God sends him to earth to help George Bailey (Scott Taylor), who has reached a crisis and has decided to kill himself.

Taylor gives a fine performance as George, with all the wide eyed enthusiasm of a young man, and the weight of the world as his world falls apart.  His chemistry with Mary (Cameron Toney) is lovely.  She is the steadfast wife who supports him no matter what (Young Mary is played by Isadora Harris)

Act 1 is a backward look at George’s life, with Kenneth Matheson playing the young George saving his brother Harry (Arlo Harris) from being drowned and preventing the local pharmacist (Jesse Akers) from sending the wrong medication to a patient.

George has great plans for his future–traveling the world and then settling down to become an architect.  But plans go awry when his father dies suddenly and it is up to George to take over the Savings & Loan and keep it from being taken over by the wicked Mr. Potter (Trent Beeby, who played George in the 2010 production).

Beeby is wonderful as the man you love to hate.  People sometimes think stories like this are dated, but some of Potter’s lines could be right out of today’s headlines.

Uncle Billy, who loses $8,000 and plunges the Savaings and Loan into the brink of bankruptcy is played wonderfully by Bryan Pro who gives Billy more "smarts" than some actors, but is devastated by his loss.

“Sesame Street” swears that the Muppet characters of Ernie and Bert are not taken from this story, but William Haggerty (Bert) and Jim Hewlett (Ernie) are fun as these two characters.  Hewlett appears later as a bartender.

Cody Svozil does double duty as Mr Potter’s slimy-haired body guard and “enforcer,” and also as George’s enthusiastic brother, who just received the Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroism in battle.

Alexis Velasquez is very funny as Aunt Tilly, secretary of the Savings and Loan, who answers the phone in the best Lily Tomlin imitation.

Shahzana Ali is Violet Bick, the oversexed young woman whom George befriends.

George’s children are Rachel Rominger as Janie, Jackson Bronson as Peter, Arlo Harris as Tommy and Stella Gonalez as Zuzu, who announced that whenever a bell rings, an angel gets his wings.

Because of the number of locations, sets are necessarily pretty utilitarian, but designer Gary Schroeder manages to make the most of minimal set pieces.  Particularly impressive, though simple, is the bridge on which George wants to commit suicide.

I never leave Winters productions without a smile on my face because of how much fun everyone is having, both on and off the stage.


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