Neptune Theatre‘s latest take on Frank Capra’s 1947 classic film, It’s A Wonderful Life, is a charming, if somewhat straightforward affair. Adapted for the stage by Neptune’s Artistic Director George Pothitos, It’s A Wonderful Life will appeal to all who view its cinematic predecessor as a cornerstone of their Christmas tradition. It did, however, leave me wanting more. Don’t get me wrong, I’m as big a fan of the film as the next guy; (I regard protagonist George Bailey in the same league as other iconic Christmas figures like Rudolph, Ralphie Parker, and Ebenezer Scrooge), but when you significantly (and understandably) reduce a play’s run time from that of its cinematic predecessor, you get left with the bare bones of the play where nothing particularly new is brought to the stage. It is not so much an homage to its source material as it is its Cliff Notes.
Chris Zonneville offers up an endearing take on George Bailey who, despite his outward displays of optimism and selflessness, finds his upbeat foothold eroding against the relentless forces of a tough and unfair world. Sarah English, likewise, is a lovely presence as Mary, but her time onstage is all too fleeting. Credit can also be given to Randy Hughson for carving out a new version of the eccentric, innocent, almost-angel Clarence Oddbody. Alternatively, I yearned for more enmity and cold-bloodedness from Steve Baker‘s performance of Mr. Potter – Bedford Falls’ crotchety old miser. As is Neptune’s style, the remaining members of the cast do an admirable job portraying a plethora of supporting, entertaining characters.
At the end of the day, It’s A Wonderful Life delivers a pleasant outing for festive theatre-goers this holiday season. Better than previous remounts of A Christmas Carol but just falling short of 2014’s A Christmas Story, Neptune’s newest addition is a nostalgic, well-acted, if somewhat unoriginal addition to its holiday theatre collection. In its best moments, you’ll find yourself enjoying your time in Bedford Falls, albeit while wishing you could have a bit more time getting to know the locals better.
Image on home page: Kathryn McCormack and Chris Zonneville. All photos credited to Allan Zilkowsky.