- For the third time in recent history, the Sunset Playhouse
has chosen “It’s a Wonderful Life” for its Christmas
seem to like traditions, and this classic, which first
appeared in a 1946 film by Frank Capra and later as a play in
1993 adapted by James W. Rodgers, has proven its staying
power. The film version of this story has made the list of the
100 best American films.
its somewhat dated dialogue and its schmaltzy ending, I think
we all enjoy seeing good deeds rewarded and someone’s life
given a new direction. I suspect that, like “A Christmas
Carol” by Charles Dickens, this play will continue to grace
multiple stages for many years to come.
a strong George Bailey, this play could fall on its face. Not
to worry in this case. Bryan Madson more than delivers in this
role, creating an earnest, three-dimensional human being we
come to care for. And as we watch him re-live his life and
agonize over the misfortunes that have befallen him as well as
rejoice over his blessings, we are probably doing some life
reviewing of our own. His compassion, his awkwardness, his
persistence, his occasional frustrated outbursts, his eventual
transformation - all ring true in Madson’s able hands. He is
a joy to watch.
him on his journey, several other strong actors stand out.
Joseph Juknialis is another Scrooge in his role as Henry F.
for him and everyone else who has the displeasure of his
company, he never changes. We enjoy hating him.
Mather is lovable as the quirky guardian angel; Paula Keppeler
has a good dose of spunk and warmth as George’s beloved
Mary; Samantha Paige delivers her dual personalities very
believably as Violet; and Stuart Mott deserves mention in his
cameo role as George’s younger brother.
large cast of 24 enacts 29 roles, but many of those characters
are not well-developed. However, they give one a feeling for
Bedford Falls, N.Y., a small town where people typically look
out for each other.
it be wonderful if we would know how our lives have affected
others? Often people save up those memories and include them
in our eulogies. I always hope the dead can hear them. Through
the magic of an angel who wanted to earn his wings, George’s
life is saved and, like Scrooge, George is given the privilege
of reliving key moments in his life and seeing their worth.
A fantasy with much appeal.
scenic design by Michael Desper and built by A.J. Simon,
though functional, is rather clunky operatively, and the many
required changes sometimes break the flow of the story.
by Joanne Cunningham are very authentic of the 1940s and bring
back memories to those of us who are old enough to remember.
Lighting and sound designers are Aaron Siegmann and Jan Pritzl,
both of whom helped create mood. This worthwhile production is
directed by Diana Alioto.