‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ on stage: Capra-corny but moving

Local Life December 21, 2012 0 Comments

by Clark Groome

Your opinion of Steve Murray’s “This Wonderful Life” will likely depend on how much you like Frank Capra’s movie “It’s a Wonderful Life.” For me it’s one of those Capracorn treats that has worn thin after a couple of viewings. For many, however, it’s a holiday tradition.

The story of George Bailey and his struggles that are overcome by his guardian angel, Clarence, and his many good neighbors in Bedford Falls pulls out all the heartstrings. The 1946 movie benefited from an A-list cast that included James Stewart, Donna Reed and Lionel Barrymore.

“This Wonderful Life,” which is playing through Dec. 23 at People’s Light and Theatre in Malvern, gives the story to a single actor — in this case Jerry Richardson — who tells the original story in slightly more than half the 130 minutes the movie ran.

As he tells the story, he plays all the parts. Everyone’s there: George, wife Mary, Angel Clarence, mean old Mr. Potter, George’s brother Harry, George and Mary’s kids and many other supporting characters who make the story fuller and richer.

It’s quite a performance. Richardson does an impressive job with each of his characters, sometimes with only an instant between being one and then another.

David Bradley directed the People’s Light production. Its good designers are Jessica Ford (set), Abbie Wysor (the period-appropriate costumes), Gregory Scott Miller (the evocative lighting) and Christopher Colucci (the impressively intricate sound and original music).

“This Wonderful Life” is an impressive bit of acting. From the reaction of the audience at the performance I saw, it is also a happy retelling of a familiar story. I still found it a tad corny, although I will admit I was moved at the end.

For tickets to the People’s Light and Theatre Production of “This Wonderful Life,” playing through Dec. 23, call 610-644-1900 or visit www.peopleslight.org

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