BWW Review: THIS WONDERFUL LIFE at The Trust Performing Arts Center
On a cold winter's night, The Trust Performing Arts Center staged the one-man show, THIS WONDERFUL LIFE, written by Steve Murray. This production stars Jeremy Kendall (Narrator, George Bailey, All Others), and his performance proceeded to warm the hearts of those in attendance.
It is a tad unusual when an iconic story is told by one performer. Will one actor have the ability to drive the emotional energy needed to portray different characters? Well, the answer for this production is a resounding, "Yes."
With minimal set pieces and effective lighting choices, Kendall captures the entire story of THIS WONDERFUL LIFE, confines the necessary psychotic turmoil, bathes in the delight of authentic beings, and tosses his findings to the audience for thoughtful contemplation and intermittent laughter.
When the play begins, guardian angel Clarence is anxiously awaiting an opportunity to earn his wings. His golden opportunity arrives when he is shown the life of George Bailey by the angel elders. This life is wonderful and filled with George's selfless acts: saving his brother from drowning and loosing his hearing in one ear because of it; helping the town pharmacist from dispensing an incorrect prescription to an ailing customer; and, most importantly, foregoing his dreams of college and traveling to keep the Savings and Loan from closing and out of the hands of the town tyrant, Mr. Potter.
The bank is set to close its doors due to a large sum of missing money. George, as owner of the Bailey Savings and Loan, exhausts every possibility to recoup the lost money so the bank can keep its doors open. Believing that nothing more can be done, and out of desperation, George contemplates suicide knowing that his life insurance payout would save the town's financial institution. . George believes that had he never been born, the town and his family would not be suffering this hardship. As George is ready to jump off a bridge, his guardian angel Clarence arrives to show George what his life would have been like had he never been born. Convincing George how wonderful his life truly is and how many lives of Bedford Falls are made richer because he is in it, Clarence saves George and earns his wings.
The colorful characters of Bedford Falls that Kendall emulates, and breathes life into, are marvelous. He portrays a fumbling Uncle Billy with finesse, pushing up Billy's imaginary glasses and swiping the brim of his hat, with the slightest of care. Perhaps Kendall's most impressive impersonation is that of Mr. Potter. He uses just the right cadence to his voice and matches that with effective posturing. During the desk scene between George and Mr. Potter, Kendall must inhabit both characters at lightning speed so that they may converse with each other. Not an easy feat for two actors let alone one actor portraying both roles.
Bravo to Kendall for his dazzling interpretation portraying both male and female characters, George and Mary. During a telephone dialogue exchange, Kendall must alter his voice patterns and inflections which results is an agreeable depiction of sentimentality. The same can be said for George's exchange with daughter, Zuzu and her precious petals. The tender touch Kendall gives each scene allows the audience to pause and breath in the absolute affection of his offering.
Presenting a familiar and much loved story in an unique format, welcomes an audience to embrace it with a novelty of spirit and precision of understanding. Jeremy Kendall's performance in THIS WONDERFUL LIFE does a wonderful job of showing us the means to do just that.
THIS WONDERFUL LIFE is available for touring in the 16/17 season. For more information on Jeremy Kendall and his one-man show, THIS WONDERFUL LIFE, please contact him at Rowiproductions.com
The Trust Performing Arts Center is located at 37 North Market Street, Lancaster PA. For information and tickets call: 717-208-7835 or visit Lancastertrust.com
Photo courtesy of: Row "I" Productions
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