After staging crowd-pleasing radio-drama presentations of It’s a Wonderful Life in 2008 and 2009 in the Cary Town Council Chambers, the Cary Players’ community theater attempted an ambitious full-scale production of Dr. James W. Rodgers’ 1993 stage adaptation of director Frank Capra’s perennially popular 1946 motion picture on Dec. 1-5 in the newly renovated Cary Arts Center. The result was entertaining, but had a far too many rough spots, some of them due to the youth and/or inexperience of several members of the cast.
Jon Karnofsky was suitably earnest and engaging — and avoided a Jimmy Stewart imitation — as reluctant savings-and-loan CEO George Bailey, who experiences a Dark Night of the Soul — wishing he’d never been born — on Christmas Eve after his absent-minded Uncle Billy (a nice cameo by Tracy Fulghum) loses a huge deposit while a bank examiner is on the premises.
With disgrace and possibly jail time hanging over his head, George Bailey briefly considers suicide until his guardian angel (Lyman) intervenes.
Megan Woronka is game but far too young to be believable George’s plucky wife, Mary; and Lyman Collins’ portrayal of Clarence Oddbody is a little tentative. Fred Yaffe scowls and growls his way through the part of Bedford Falls’ King of Mean Henry F. Potter, and Bob Grannan and Jeanine Denning amuse the audience as Mr. Potter’s glowering Goon and his overcaffeinated Secretary.
Cary Players patrons saw far too little of Tracy Fulghum as Uncle Billy and Gus Allen as George Bailey’s war-hero brother Harry; and Pat Berry’s part as the grief-stricken druggist Mr. Gower, who — but for the intervention of his delivery by George Bailey — would have poisoned a customer, is also abbreviated.
Perhaps because of the greenness of his cast, director Jaret Preston painted with a broad brush, and gave the minor characters one note to hit over and over. Scenic designer Bob Grannan’s elaborate set does not always establish place or facilitate the cinematic scene changes required to keep this story perking along, but costume designer LeGrande Smith is more successful. Her 1940s fashions added authenticity to the proceedings.
SECOND OPINION: Dec. 5th Raleigh, NC CVNC review by Jeffrey Rossman: http://cvnc.org/article.cfm?articleId=5220. (Note: To read Triangle Arts & Entertainment’s online version of the Dec. 2nd Triangle Theater Review preview by Robert W. McDowell, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2011/12/it’s-a-wonderful-life-is-a-full-stage-adaptation-of-the-classic-1946-movie-directed-by-frank-capra/.)
The Film: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/It’s_a_Wonderful_Life (Wikipedia).
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