It’s A Wonderful Life By Philip Grecian

Dates and Venue18 November 2010 - 2 January 2011, 8pm (Tuesdays 7:30pm, Wed & Sat matinees 2pm) | Granville Island Stage

Director Dean Paul Gibson Set Design Ted Roberts Costume Design Rebekka Sorensen Lighting Design Marsha Sibthorpe Sound Design Neil Weisensel Projection design Jamie Nesbitt Stage Manager Pamela Jakobs

Reviewer John Jane

For yet another year the Arts Club Theatre Company has chosen Philip Grecian’s stage adaptation of Frank Capra’s 1946 classic film It's a Wonderful Life as its Christmas holiday fare. Aside from some clever timeline adjustments and allowing for a more developed role for the guardian angel, the playwright’s version is faithful to the original.

It is easy to see why the story has endured; it is one of hope and redemption and no matter which number is on the life insurance policy, a decent man’s life will always be more valuable alive. George Bailey is an everyman unsung hero who has unselfishly spent much of his life putting his brother, his parents and his neighbours first in his hometown of Bedford Falls. He always wanted to travel and eventually work as an architect, but surrendered the opportunity when his father died, to prevent local penny-pincher Henry Potter from taking over the building and loan company his father had built to serve the townsfolk. But, it looks like Potter might get his wish after all when on Christmas Eve, George's Uncle Billy is distracted and loses $8,000 of the company’s money. Potter finds the misplaced money, but, instead of returning it, he uses the opportunity to ruin poor George, However, he doesn’t reckon with George’s guardian angel, Clarence.

Dean Paul Gibson returns to direct, along with Bob Frazer as the longanimous George Bailey, Kirsten Robek as George’s devoted wife, Mary and Bernard Cuffling who charms the audience with some much-needed humour as “gung ho” Angel Class II Clarence.

But, it’s the younger members of the cast that steal most of the scenes. Lucy Jeffrey as the Bailey’s youngest child, Zuzu, Kennedy Montano who does double duty as Janie Bailey and the young Mary and Madelin Prekaski as Violet Bick as a child turn in delightfully polished performances.

Ted Roberts’ sagacious set design combines rolling props that move seamlessly around the stage with a backdrop showing concurrent excerpts of the original film version in grainy black and white. Rebekka Sorensen’s clothing is handsome and accurately characteristic of mid-twentieth century middle America.

This year’s Artsclub Theatre’s presentation of It's a Wonderful Life makes for an excellent choice for the whole family. Looking around at the theatre, I couldn’t help noticing the range of ages in the audience – from children of 3 to seniors of 83.

© 2010 John Jane