BWW Review: IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE: LIVE! at Virginia Samford Theatre Delivers the Christmas Spirit with an Amazing Cast

Ravenswood Productions is once again delivering the holiday treat to the city of Birmingham. "It's a Wonderful Life: Live!" at the Virginia Samford Theatre is a bright and lively throwback to the days of radio theater; an art form that taps into the imagination better than any virtual reality.

For years this stage production has been a holiday tradition in Birmingham. I make the blind assumption that most people are familiar with the film and story, but if you are one of the folks who has never seen Frank Capra's film "It's a Wonderful Life", its well worth a viewing. "It's a Wonderful Life" is a timeless piece of American culture and a celebrated film at Christmas time.

The story highlights the true meaning of the holiday season with a reflective look into what it means to thanklessly give toward the benefit others. In this stage rendition, director Marty Higginbotham captures the feel of the original film with this extremely intimate performance. Higginbotham structured the performance with a perfect pace to capture the best bits of the original film, without sacrificing character or plot development. He compiled a cast of some of Birmingham's best that successfully brings the classic characters to life. Jonathan Fuller plays the iconic role of George Bailey. Fuller gives a warm and charming delivery of a man discovering just how important he is to his family and to his community.

Julie Fuller plays Mary Bailey who is the light of George's life. Julie delivers the role with sweet innocence and whimsy that makes Mary pop on stage. The talented ensemble is composed of actors Ashley Bishop, Judd McCluney, Barry Austin and Todd Ponder. They each bring stellar character work to portraying multiple characters in the story. The fun deliveries and honed stage presence aid in the actors seamless jump from one character to the next in a rapid fire and impressive cadence. Each actor gives heart and personality to each role, making this performance entertaining, touching and memorable.

The attention to detail is quite effective and you feel like you are transported to 1940's. The little touches in the production aid in carrying the audience to George Bailey's life in Bedford Falls. The eye-catching stage is designed by Benjamin Hayes. He has made the stage into a radio studio ready to broadcast; complete with a foley stage. Penny Thomas is a one-woman foley artist in the production giving audio support to the actors with precision. Eamon Griffith is the studio pianist filling the sound with atmosphere.

There are at a row mics on stands for the actors, and of course huge electric signs reading APPLAUSE and ON THE AIR. Costume designer Mary Taylor Gurney dresses the cast in stylish suits and dresses of the era. All of the delightful elements combined in the show make for a great night of theatre. "It's a Wonderful Life: Live!" is a holiday tradition of the city of Birmingham worth picking up. Best to hurry though for this year tickets are selling out quickly.

It's a Wonderful Life: Live!

Directed by Marty Higginbotham

Starring Jonathan Fuller, Julie Fuller, Ashley Bishop, Barry Austin, Judd McCluney, Todd Ponder. Foley Artist - Penny Thomas. Pianist - Eamon Griffith. Set/Lighting Designer - Benjamin Hayes. Costume Designer - Mary Taylor Gurney. Production Stage Manager - Karin Callahan

This is a limited engagement run, December 21-31, 2017, 7:30pm

(special Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve matinees at 2:30pm.)

Virginia Samford Theatre

Martha Moore Sykes Studio

1116 26th St S

Birmingham, AL 35205

For tickets and more info: (205) 775-7709 or

Discounts available for groups of 10 or more

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From This Author David Edward Perry

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