BWW Review: IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE is Heartwarming at Central New York Playhouse
The Central New York Playhouse - or "the theatre in the mall" - in the suburbs of Syracuse, New York brings the classic tale of It's a Wonderful Life to life for the holiday season. Under the superb direction of Bill Lee, the production is a go-to show for the Holidays.
Based on Frank Capra's 1946 classic film of the same name and Philip Van Doren Stern's story, James W. Rodgers' stage adaptation still centers on George Bailey (Jordan Glaski), a man that has lived in the small upstate New York town of Bedford Falls his entire life. Bailey always longed to travel and move far away, but circumstances beyond his control require him to stay in Bedford Falls and run his family's building and loan company. George Bailey marries his loyal sweetheart Mary (Kimberly Grader) and has four children (Collin Dean, Willa Joy Olshan, Lulu Montecalvo, Lambros Alamond)). He works hard to provide for his family while fighting off the greedy Mr. Potter (William Edward White), a wealthy man trying to take over the town by buying up all the real estate.
On one Christmas Eve, George Bailey has a breakdown because money goes missing and it becomes clear that he could lose his business. Convinced that life for everyone he knows and loves would be better if he had never been born, Bailey contemplates jumping off a bridge to end his life. A wing-seeking angel named Clarence (John Krenrich) intervenes and reveals to George what the town of Bedford Falls would be like if he never existed. It's not a pretty picture.
The technical elements really enhance the storytelling at Central New York Playhouse. The production features some fabulous sets by Jesse Bender and Bill Lee that are enhanced by Sara Anson's lighting. They minimalistic black, gray, and white set with the bridge in the background captures the town perfectly. Two large doors that open to transform the stage into the loving Bailey home are a very nice addition. Korrie Taylor's black, white, grey, and beige costumes evoke a sense of familiarity and make the audience feel like they are watching the black and white film all over again. At the end of the play, when George Realizes how important he is to the family and town the Bailey home is transformed into a setting for a festive family Christmas. Pops of red are added to the costumes.
The talented actors bring to the story to life with such passion, warmth, and professionalism. Jordan Glaski delivers a spot-on performance as George Bailey. He captures his heart and devotion. Kimberly Grader is perfection as George's devoted wife, Mary. She embodies the charming girl-next-door-type that George Bailey easily falls for. William Edward White, as Henry F. Potter, is reminiscent of Lionel Barrymore in the film version. He delivers a memorable performance. John Krenrich delivers Clarence's every line impeccably. The supporting cast also delivers top notch performance of all the familiar and beloved town characters. Unfortunately, the sound system would drown out some lines and take away from the scene.
The Central New York Playhouse's production of It's a Wonderful Life is heartwarming. The production showcases this talented group of community theatre actors very well, and it was nice to see some new faces. Just like the film, this show needs to be a part your holiday tradition this year!
Running time: Approximately 0ne hour and forty five minutes with one twenty minute intermission.
The Central New York Playhouse production of It's a Wonderful Life runs through December 17, 2016. For tickets and information on the Central New York Playhouse click here.