Written by H.M.S. Penafore!
As the holiday season approaches, professional and community theaters alike often produce a holiday show to raise not only holiday spirit, but funds as well. Holiday shows are often extremely popular and sell out rather quickly. There was no shortage of holiday cheer in the northern suburb of Anoka as Lyric Arts staged production of “It’s a Wonderful Life” opened last week. Adapted for the stage James W. Rogers from the film by Frank Capra, “It’s a Wonderful Life” looks to showcase a person’s discovery of self-worth in the face of challenging social and economic protests. Director Mark Hauck aimed to capture this classic story and, in most cases, succeeded.
The story follows the protagonist, George Bailey, played by the charismatic Brandon Osero, through his highs and lows. It was clear that Osera based his interpretation of George off of the iconic Jimmy Stewart. Osero was, by far, the most consistent in his acting and had the best grasp of the language in this piece. My only criticism was that he was, at times, luke-warm when his circumstances changed for the worse. I would have liked him to dive deeper into the depression and hopelessness when his world begins to crumble.
This piece also highlights the importance of community and connection to one another as human beings. The connection was clearly seen in Matthew Cawley’s portrayal of the ‘angel in training’, Clarence Oddball. Cawley’s whimsical and empathetic nature grabbed us from the moment he entered. He provided support not only to his fellow actors, but also acted as a guide to us audience members beautifully. George’s wife, Mary Hatch, played by Mandi Trandem, overall had a very consistent performance, however, the chemistry between her and George felt stilted at times. I would look forward to that relationship developing further and deeper as the run of the show progresses.
I cannot complete this review without mentioning two notable supporting characters of the villainous Henry Potter (Rick Gabriel) and the bumbling Uncle Billy (Eric Eichenlaub). Gabriel’s sharp and cutting delivery left me squirming in my seat as he began to slowly cut off George Bailey’s options of hope. Eric Eichenlaub’s comedic timing was just right. Uncle Billy can often be overdone, but Eichenlaub smartly chose moments to show the anxiety rooted in Uncle Billy.
Overall, the production accomplished the warm and fuzzy feeling of feeling connected and supported by your friends and family. Some moments, however, felt rushed. I was hoping for the actors to be allowed more time in certain scenes (mainly the opening scene with George contemplating to take his own life). The one scene that did accomplish this was when George returned home after learning that his business and livelihood may be in jeapordy. The scene was beautifully acted and it allowed the rest of story to fall into place which left me smiling at the curtain call. If you can make the trek out to Anoka, do it. It’s worth being reminded of what’s really important J
It’s a Wonderful Life” runs now until December 22nd. Click here for more ticket information!