“It’s a Wonderful Life” Is a Full Stage Adaptation of the Classic 1946 Movie, Directed by Frank Capra

"It's a Wonderful Life" stars Jon Karnofsky and Megan Woronka (left) as George and Mary Bailey and Lyman Collins as George's guardian angel Clarence Oddbody (photo by Rob Byron of Piedmont Photo)
"It's a Wonderful Life" stars Jon Karnofsky and Megan Woronka (left) as George and Mary Bailey and Lyman Collins as George's guardian angel Clarence Oddbody (photo by Rob Byron of Piedmont Photo)

"It's a Wonderful Life" stars Jon Karnofsky and Megan Woronka (left) as George and Mary Bailey and Lyman Collins as George's guardian angel Clarence Oddbody (photo by Rob Byron of Piedmont Photo)
"It's a Wonderful Life" stars Jon Karnofsky and Megan Woronka (left) as George and Mary Bailey and Lyman Collins as George's guardian angel Clarence Oddbody (photo by Rob Byron of Piedmont Photo)

The Cary Players will present a full stage adaptation of the holiday classic It’s a Wonderful Life, based on the perennially popular 1946 motion picture directed by Frank Capra from a screenplay that he co-authored with Broadway playwrights Frances Goodrich, Albert Hackett, and Jo Swerling, on Dec. 1-5 in the new 390-seat Cary Arts Center. The Cary community theater previously performed a radio-drama version of It’s a Wonderful Life in 2008 and 2009.

“Since this was our first season in the new Cary Arts Center, we wanted to try a ‘full-stage’ version of this popular story,” says producer Debra Zumbach Grannan.

Director Jaret Preston claims, “When people think of It’s a Wonderful Life, they normally first and foremost think about George Bailey. Although he is, of course, the critical figure in the story, [It’s a Wonderful Life] really is about the town, the people, and how everything we do not only affects our lives, but everyone around us. And more often then not for the better!

“Our George, played by Jon Karnofsky, has put his heart and soul into finding the Every Man in George that allows us all to see a little bit of ourselves in him,” Preston says, “but it is the townspeople; it is the set-construction team; [and] it is the crew hidden behind the scenes adding music, lights, and sounds that truly embodies Bedford Falls and allows everyone to put on George’s shoes for 90 minutes and learn that it really is a wonderful life.”

He adds, “With the iconic moment of George standing on the bridge ever looming in our mind, we get to meet so many colorful characters that are bigger then life, [George’s guardian angel] Clarence Oddbody [Lyman Collins], Mary Bailey [Megan Woronka], Violet Peterson [Shelley Stewart], Zuzu Bailey [Gabby Planells], and too many to name. And thanks to their dedication to make every word count, and every moment be true, it makes me as the director just want to pack up my bag, find a little house somewhere in Bedford Falls, and declare myself home.”

Besides the actors and actresses named above, the Cary Players’ cast for It’s a Wonderful Life includes Gus Allen as Harry Bailey, Tracy Fulghum as Uncle Billy, Fred Yaffe as Henry F. Potter, Bob Grannan as Mr. Potter’s Goon, Jeanine Denning as Mr. Potter’s Secretary, Chris Bynum as Sam Wainwright, Pat Berry as Mr. Gower, Amber Hayles as Aunt Tilly, Mark Anderson as Bert, Craig Johnson as Ernie, Debra Grannan as Mrs. Hatch, Joya Joseph as Miss Andrews, Yeva Byzek as Mrs. Thompson, Brook North as Mr. Martini, Kerry Bunn as Mrs. Martini, Danielle Snook as Miss Carter, William Hager as Pete Bailey, Collin Queen as Tommy Bailey, Kelly Holsopple as Janie Bailey, and Jon Hager as Mr. Welch — plus Brady Xavier Bunch as The Dog.

When the curtain rises on It’s a Wonderful Life, George Bailey is about to experience a Dark Night of the Soul.

“As George contemplates the value of his life, he encounters Clarence Oddbody, a guardian angel who helps him reflect on the impact he has had on the lives of his wife, Mary, his Uncle Billy, his brother Harry, and his mother Ma Bailey,” explains Debra Grannan. “Friends and neighbors in the community are also touched by George’s actions including the town druggist Mr. Gower and Violet Peterson; and George realizes that if he never existed, neither would have his beloved children Peter, Tommy, Janie, and Zuzu.”

In addition to director Jaret Preston and producer Debra Grannan, the Cary Players’ creative team for It’s a Wonderful Life includes producer Dan Martschenko, associate producer Pamela Smith, musical director Craig Johnson, set designer Bob Grannan, master carpenter Scott Peters, lighting designer Michael Lefler, costume designer LeGrande Smith, properties manager Carole Kelly, sound designer Becca Easley, and stage managers Terry Townsend and Elaine Petrone.

“The Cary Arts Center is an amazing facility, with a large stage complete with a fly tower, state-of-the-art equipment, [and] excellent seating,” declares producer Debra Grannan. “Because it serves so many arts groups, there is no official theater scene shop, so the entire set was built off-site and trucked in to the facility.”

She adds, “The play opens atop a large gray bridge that looks out over Bedford Falls. It’s from this vantage point that George reflects on his past, as small wagons and various furniture pieces are shifted into place to create the illusion of a city street, the savings-and-loan office, the front porch of the Hatch home and the Bailey living room….

“[Lighting designer] Michael Lefler makes full use of the Cary Arts Center’s lighting instruments to transition from an inviting, star-studded night-time sky with full moon to an icy-cold, blue-hued winter night,” says Grannan. “Tall, practical lamp posts add a nice glow to the set for the street scenes.”

She adds, “[Costume designer] LeGrande Smith has captured a 1930s mood with her warm woolen wardrobe for the holiday carolers and her tailored dresses for the women.”

The Cary Players presents IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 1 and 2, 3 and 8 p.m. Dec. 3, 3 p.m. Dec. 4, and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 5 in the Cary Arts Center, 101 Dry Ave., Cary, North Carolina 27511.

TICKETS: $18 ($16 students and seniors).

BOX OFFICE: 800/514-3849 or http://secure.etix.com/.

INFORMATION: 919/469-4069, info@caryplayers.org, or http://caryplayers.org/tickets.html.

SHOW: http://caryplayers.org/wonderful2011.html.

SEASON: http://www.caryplayers.org/.

PRESENTER: http://www.caryplayers.org/.

VENUE: http://www.townofcary.org/.

DIRECTIONS: http://maps.google.com/.

PARKING: http://caryplayers.org/documents/Parking%20Map.pdf.

NOTE 1: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh (http://www.artsaccessinc.org/) will audio describe the 3 p.m. Dec. 4th performance.

NOTE 2: In special recognition of this country’s servicemen and women, tickets for the 7:30 p.m. Dec. 5th performance will be half price — just $9 apiece — for veterans active-duty military personnel.


The Film: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/It’s_a_Wonderful_Life (Wikipedia).


Robert W. McDowell is editor and publisher of Triangle Theater Review, a FREE weekly e-mail theatrical newsletter that provides more comprehensive, in-depth coverage of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill theater than all of the other news media combined. This preview is reprinted with permission from Triangle Theater Review.

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By Robert W. McDowell

Robert W. McDowell is a Raleigh, NC-based freelance writer, editor, and critic. He has written theater, film, book, and music previews and reviews for The News & Observer, The Raleigh Times, Spectator Magazine, and Classical Voice of North Carolina, all based in Raleigh. In 1980-91, he covered business, industry, government, and education for (We the People of) North Carolina magazine, published monthly by N.C. Citizens for Business and Industry. In April 2001, McDowell started Robert's Reviews, a FREE weekly e-mail newsletter that provides comprehensive, in-depth coverage of the performing arts in the Research Triangle area of North Carolina, which includes Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, and Carrboro. Triangle Review is the latest-and-greatest version of McDowell's original newsletter. (To start your FREE subscription, e-mail robertm748[at]aol.com and type SUBSCRIBE TR in the Subject: line.) From December 1980 until September 2017, McDowell served on the board of directors of The Cinema, Inc., a Raleigh-based nonprofit film society formed in 1966. He currently publishes a weekly list of FREE advance screenings of movies in the Triangle area. (To have your e-mail address added to this FREE list, e-mail robertm748[at]aol.com and type SUBSCRIBE FFL FREE in the Subject: line.) McDowell also co-edited and supervised the production of Jim Valvano's Guide to Great Eating (JTV Enterprises, 1984), a 224-page sports celebrity cookbook; and he served as a fact checker for Valvano: They Gave Me a Lifetime Contract, and Then They Declared Me Dead (Pocket Books, 1991).