Quote of the Day: Strange, isn’t it? (says Clarence to a reawakened George Bailey after seeing what the world would be like if he hadn’t been in it) Each man’s life touches so many others. When he isn’t around, he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he? from the play It’s a Wonderful Life, adapted for the stage by Doug Rand from the screenplay by Frances Goodrich, Albert Hacket, Frank Capra, and Jo Swerling. This stage adaptation, directed by Hannah Wienberg-Goerger, playing through Dec. 19 at Lyric Arts in Anoka, MN, is very much like the movie.
I like the way they made their set (Greg Vanselow) with porches and stairs, balconies, and pieces that rolled in and out for certain scenes. They used projections for scenes involving the characters as children that gave a sense of the past with a nod to the movie. I especially liked the scene with George (Raúl Arámbula) and Zuzu (Ainsley Dirkse) when he goes up to her room to talk about her flower and ask how she’s feeling.
It’s a Wonderful Life is one of my favorite holiday films. I watch it every year while wrapping gifts. The self-sacrificing George Bailey captures our hearts. He has his own dreams, yet defers them time and again to fulfill duty to his family and community. He falls in love with Mary (Eva Gemlo) and his path changes. He really has a big heart, but when things start to crumble around him, he questions everything. He feels like a failure and contemplates ending his life. A guardian angel Clarence (Rick Wyman) appears at the critical moment. When he “falls” into the river, George’s natural instincts to save others kicks in, and he jumps in to save Clarence. The entire show has Clarence learning about George’s life, then showing him how terrible it would be if he had never existed. Our actions really do influence others, and we’re all intricately connected. I love the feelings of hope at the end when George realizes that he does indeed have a wonderful life. He chooses to live and love and cherish what he has. I’d like to think that eventually, he and Mary take that month long trip to Europe after the kids get a little older.
The costumes (Rebecca Bernstein) are beautiful and representing the time period, 1920’s to 1940’s. The final scene is set during WWII, when George’s younger brother Harry (Doni Marinos) returns as a war hero. The lighting and Sound Design (Jim Eischen and Paul Etsby) were especially effective in helping us focus on scenes, the projections, and atmosphere. Of course, the music of that era is great, pulling you into those decades and the holiday season.
Overall, this is a delightful stage adaptation of a holiday classic film. All the leads did a great job. Jennifer Ramirez played the role of Ma Bailey in the performance I saw, and she did a great job. She gets some of the funniest lines. The run time is two and a half hours, and in a few parts the pacing was a little slow, making it feel a bit long. Everyone is getting used to live performances, again, after the long intermission. Masks and proof of vaccinations, or a recent negative Covid-19 test, are required to attend. They aren’t serving concessions like they’ve done in the past, but are providing water before the show and during intermission, which we appreciated.
You can see It’s a Wonderful Life at Lyric Arts Main Street Stage in Anoka, MN through December 19, 2021.
Go. Create. Inspire!
Journaling Prompt: What are some of your favorite holiday/winter shows?
Lyric Arts provided the following information in their program guide.
The Holidays can be a difficult time for many. If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, you are not alone. There is help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline website and number is 1-800-273-8255.
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