Duke Lafoon to Star as 'George Bailey' in Goodspeed's A WONDERFUL LIFE; Cast Announced!

By: Aug. 07, 2015
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Grammy and Emmy Award-winner Joe Raposo and Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize winner Sheldon Harnick's uplifting musical A Wonderful Life reminds us how one person's life can touch that of so many others. Based on the beloved 1946 holiday movie classic, this charming musical is sure to inspire and entertain. A Wonderful Life will run September 18 through November 29 at the Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam, Conn. Official Press Opening will be October 14, 2015.

Bedford Falls comes alive as never before with the Goodspeed premiere of the magical tale of finding hope in your own hometown. In a tuneful re-imagining of the classic film "It's a Wonderful Life," a would-be angel swoops to the rescue of desperate banker George Bailey on Christmas Eve. From the Tony-winning co-creator of Fiddler on the Roof, it's a heartwarming family musical that celebrates the power of love and the goodness in all of us. Remember: "Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings!"

A Wonderful Life is adapted from the Frank Capra film "It's A Wonderful Life." The tuner features Music by Joe Raposo who may be best known for his work on Sesame Street for which he wrote the theme song, as well as classics such as "Bein' Green" and "C is for Cookie," and Book and Lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, who wrote Fiddler on the Roof, She Loves Me,and Fiorello! among others. A Wonderful Life will be sponsored by Chester Village West; Comcast; ConnectiCare; Eversource Energy; Updike, Kelly & Spellacy; and Webster Bank.

Duke Lafoon will play George Bailey. Lafoon, who was most recently seen Off-Broadway as Billy Clinton in Clinton: The Musical, is no stranger to the role of George Bailey, having performed the role regionally. Kirsten Scott will play Mary Hatch. She has appeared on Broadway as Jenny Hill in Big Fish, Young Phyllis in Follies and Amber Von Tussle in Hairspray. Logan James Hall who played Will Connelly in Off-Broadway's The House of Connelly, will play Harry Bailey.

Ed Dixon will play Mr. Potter. Dixon has appeared in a dozen Broadway productions, including Anything Goes, Sunday in the Park with George, Mary Poppins, Gore Vidal's The Best Man and Les Miserables as Thenardier. At Goodspeed, he has been seen in Something's Afoot, Big River, Pirates of Penzance and Can-Can at the Goodspeed Opera House and Starcrossed at The Norma Terris Theatre.

Josh Franklin, who will play Sam Wainwright, has been seen in Broadway's Ghost, Anything Goes, Grease and Legally Blonde. Frank Vlastnik, who will play Clarence Johnson, has appeared in Broadway's A Year with Frog and Toad, Sweet Smell of Success and Big. Bethe B. Austin, who performed in the 2005 Goodspeed Opera House production of The Boy Friend, returns to play Mrs. Martini/Milly Bailey.

Ryan G. Dunkin, whose credits include the National Tours of Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story and The Full Monty and Off-Broadway's Good News! and Drat! The Cat, will play Ernie. Michael Medeiros, whose theatre credits include Playwrights Horizons' Violet, Circle in the Square's Ah, Wilderness! and Goodspeed's The Baker's Wife, will play Uncle Billy.

George McDaniel, who appeared in Broadway's Big River, will play Matthew/Tom/Mr. Martini. Kevin C. Loomis, who appeared in Broadway's Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark and Inherit the Wind, will play Bert. Ben Stone-Zelman, known to Connecticut audiences for his portrayal of Young Scrooge in A Christmas Carol at Hartford Stage, will play Tommy. Sisters Riley Briggs and Ella Briggs from East Hampton, Connecticut; will play the Bailey sisters, Beth and Zuzu.

The ensemble of A Wonderful Life will include Alissa Alter (National Tours of A Chorus Line and Guys and Dolls and Goodspeed's Irving Berlin's Holiday Inn and 42nd Street), Maddy Apple (Goodspeed's Hello, Dolly! and the Irving Berlin's White Christmas National Tour) and Drew Nellessen (National tours of Chicago and West Side Story and Goodspeed's Good News!). Hollis Scarborough (Off-Broadway's The Girl Friend) will play Karen. Curtis Schroeger (National Tours of South Pacific, Mary Poppins and Fiddler on the Roof, as well as Goodspeed's Fiddler on the Roof) will also serve as Dance Captain. Carol Schuberg (Broadway's Meet Me in St. Louis and Goodspeed's Mirette at The Norma Terris Theatre and The Boys from Syracuse at the Goodspeed Opera House) will play Mrs. Hatch. Laura E. Taylor (The Kennedy Center production of Mame) will play Violet.

Joining them will be John T. Wolfe (Goodspeed's Irving Berlin's Holiday Inn and Mame) and Jessica Wu (National Tours of A Chorus Line and Doctor Doolittle). Alex Dreschke and Kate Cherichello will be the swings for this production. Brendan Oakley, who will understudy the role of Tommy and Bobbie Celine Doherty, who was seen in the Lifetime movie "Wishin' and Hopin'," and will understudy the roles of Beth and Zuzu, are both Connecticut natives.

A Wonderful Life will be directed by Michael Perlman, whose regional theatre credits include productions for Cleveland Play House, Trinity Repertory Company and Arvada Theater Center. His play From White Plains received a 2013 GLAAD Media Award and was nominated for New York Innovative Theater Awards for Outstanding Premiere Production and Outstanding Full-Length Script.

Parker Esse will choreograph A Wonderful Life. Esse choreographed Goodspeed's Fiddler on the Roof, Carousel and The Most Happy Fella and served as Associate Choreographer for Broadway's Finian's Rainbow and A Tale of Two Cities.

Orchestrations for A Wonderful Life will be by Dan DeLange, who has orchestrated more than 40 productions at Goodspeed, including Guys and Dolls, Irving Berlin's Holiday Inn and Fiddler on the Roof. A Wonderful Life's music director, Michael O'Flaherty, is in his 24th season as Goodspeed's Resident Music Director. His Broadway credits include By Jeeves, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and A Streetcar Named Desire.

Brian Prather, whose work was last seen in Goodspeed's The Fabulous Lipitones at The Norma Terris Theatre, will serve as A Wonderful Life's scenic designer. A Wonderful Life will feature costume designs by Jennifer Caprio, whose costumes have been seen in the Broadway, National Tour or West End productions of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Joseph...Dreamcoat and The Lion, as well as Goodspeed's LMNOP at The Norma Terris Theatre.

The lighting designer for A Wonderful Life will be Scott Bolman, who has designed the lighting for the Off-Broadway productions of We Play for the Gods, Happy Days and Moonlight Room. Now in his 31st season as Goodspeed's Lighting and Sound Supervisor, Jay Hilton will serve as sound designer for A Wonderful Life.

Mark Adam Rampmeyer will design wigs and hair for A Wonderful Life. Rampmeyer has designed wigs and hair for Broadway's Lysistrata Jones, West Side Story and The Farnsworth Invention, as well as more than a dozen Goodspeed productions, including La Cage aux Folles, Irving Berlin's Holiday Inn and Fiddler on the Roof. Casting for A Wonderful Life is by Paul Hardt/SH Entertainment.

A Wonderful Life will run September 18 - November 29, 2015 [Official Press Opening October 14, 2015]. Curtain times are Wednesdays at 2:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Thursdays at 2:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Fridays at 8:00 p.m., Saturdays at 3:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.

Tickets are available through the Goodspeed Box Office (860.873.8668), open seven days a week, or on-line at www.goodspeed.org. For show highlights, exclusive photos, special events and more, visit us at goodspeed.org and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

Under the leadership of Executive Director Michael Gennaro, Goodspeed Musicals is dedicated to the preservation, development, and advancement of musical theatre. Goodspeed produces three musicals each season at the Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam, Conn., and additional productions at The Norma Terris Theatre in Chester, Conn., which was opened in 1984 for the development of new musicals. The first regional theatre to receive two Tony Awards (for outstanding achievement), Goodspeed also maintains The Scherer Library of Musical Theatre and The Max Showalter Center for Education in Musical Theatre. Goodspeed gratefully acknowledges the support of United Airlines, the official airline of Goodspeed Musicals, and official auto sponsor Hoffman Audi. Goodspeed is supported in part by the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development with support from the Connecticut Office of the Arts.

Special Events & Offers:

Opening Night Toast: Friday, September 18. Celebrate opening night in style with our Ticket 'n 'Tini special - a hot deal at $48 per person!

Saturday Wine Tasting: Saturday, September 19, 6:30 p.m. Treat yourself to a sampling of fine wines hosted by Shore Discount Liquors, hors d'oeuvres from Gelston House, and a pre-show chat with a member of the creative team. $12 with your ticket to the 8 PM performance.

Kids Nights: Introduce your favorite young person to the magic of musical theatre. Each adult who buys a regular-priced ticket for the evening performance on specified dates may purchase a $15 ticket for a child age 5 - 18. Wednesday, September 23; Thursday, September 24; Friday, September 25 (Meet the Cast after the Friday night performance for autographs).

Meet the Cast: A lively post-show audience discussion with the cast is offered on the following Thursday evenings: Thursday, October 15; Thursday, October 29; and Thursday, November 12.

Lady Katharine Dining Cruise: Thursday, October 29. Enjoy the fall foliage along the Connecticut River! Add a leisurely cruise and sumptuous buffet aboard the Lady Katharine to your theatre ticket. Choose an 11:30 a.m. lunch cruise ($42) or a 5 p.m. dinner cruise ($47) to pair with either the 2:00 p.m.matinee or the 7:30 p.m. evening performance .

Trick-or-'Tini Package: Saturday, October 31, 8:00 p.m. This frightfully good Halloween special includes a ticket to the show and a specialty martini for $59 per person!

Thanksgiving Food Drive:

Buy one ticket, get one free for select seats for the 2:00 & 7:30 p.m. performances with a generous non-perishable food donation to benefit the East Haddam Food Bank. Donations will be collected at the Goodspeed Opera House 11/23 - 11/29.

Friday Dinner Theatre Package: Includes dinner at the Gelston House (located next door to the Opera House) and a ticket to the 8:00 p.m. performance. Includes your choice of a beef, chicken, fish, or pasta entree. Just $82!

Student Rush: $15 tickets for any evening performance available in advance by visiting or calling the Box Office. Must have valid student or teacher ID.

Goodspeed Dinners: Reserve tickets for a Wednesday, Thursday, or Sunday evening performance and enjoy special pre-show dinner offers at local restaurants.