Review: IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE At Beef & Boards: A Sparkling Holiday Classic

On stage through December 23rd.

By: Nov. 28, 2022
Review: IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE At Beef & Boards: A Sparkling Holiday Classic
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The holiday season brings with it many familiar sights, sounds, smells, and of course, beloved cinematic and stage treasures like IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE. Beef & Boards chose a true gem to get every audience member into the right spirit while always recalling what's truly important and truly worth fighting for: each other.

Celeste:

I must confess, IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE was never the chosen Christmas classic growing up at my house, so I came in with less nostalgic feelings and more a general sense of the themes. Most seasonal favorites have familiar elements, like family, friends, and kinship. But there's a reason this is the recipe for most holiday stories: it works! IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE brings a sense of empathy and warmth. It reminds its audience members that too many decisions are made with the bottom dollar in mind. And it also reminds us that our decisions, good and bad, have far more ripple effects than we can ever imagine.

The play rests heavily on the shoulders of whoever plays George Bailey, and Logan Moore is the perfect man for the job. He even perfected the iconic accent of Mr. Bailey. I've been lucky enough to see him in a few Beef & Boards productions now, and he has an impressive range and diversity in his onstage delivery. He brings the audience into his family and his psyche just as well as he grabs the attention of his guardian angel, Clarence.

Clarence is another pivotal role not only because he's an angel but also because he helps us as audience members create a connection with George. Don Farrell as Clarence handled this challenge with grace and a nice dash of humor. Farrell is childlike and effusive in his role but also grounded. That is a hard balance to strike when you need to be both wise and a little bumbling.

As an audience member, it pains me to mention Mr. Potter, but as a reviewer, I have to give a bow to the villain played so well by Dan Scharbrough. He was the character you loved to hate, and that's not always an easy task. He was so believable as a money-grubbing but seemingly level-headed businessman. After all, he wraps up his proposals in pretty packages with lots of money involved, but his complete disdain for the humanity around him makes him entirely abhorrent.

Beef & Boards has brought the spirit of the season to light-and they've done it so well that tickets are nearly all sold out! You can check their website for the coveted remaining seats, and you can also look ahead to their upcoming season.

Dylan:

The sentimental, emotional fantasy was originally produced and directed by Frank Capra and the movie was based on "The Greatest Gift," a Phillip Van Doren Stern short story. The movie, which starred Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey and Henry Travers as Clarence, has come to be one of the most cherished in American cinema. Remarkably, it was actually a financial flop at the movie box office, and only years later did it turn out to be mandatory Christmas TV watching.

It's a Wonderful Life was filled with emotion. From Mr. Gower (played by Douglas E. Stark) nearly losing everything with one blunder to George's (Logan Moore) final resolve that he's "worth more dead than alive". And I can't forget about Potter, the furious, merciless robber baron with a thorn in his side named Bailey. The show was at its best when Dan Scharbrough's Potter and Bill Book's Uncle Billy were on the stage together. Scharbrough played Potter with a growl and feeling appropriate to the character, and an earnestness of movement and conversation that instilled his superiority over, well, everyone else. On the other end of the field is Book's Billy, forgetful and unfocused, caring and loving, a character ultimately the most lovable of the group. Logan Moore had the most difficult challenge of the night, playing George Bailey, a role memorialized by the great Jimmy Stewart. And here's where I had actually the least trouble distinguishing the show from the film. Moore's Bailey was over the top emotionally but in the perfect way, from lassoing the moon to reaching his final breaking point. It's nearly difficult to replicate that kind of performance as an actor, especially when you're not, in fact, trying to duplicate it, but to make the character your own. I found myself very happy with the amount of despair, and I found Moore's performance entertaining. George Bailey is the guy you root for, and Moore definitely made him that.

It's a Wonderful Life was packed with nostalgia. There was a propensity to compare the play to the film, and it's reasonable. At a minimum, if you've seen the film, it's a satisfying revisiting of arguably the most popular Christmas movie. At it's best, the production of It's a Wonderful Life at Beef & Boards was a classical tale of family, friends, community, and underestimating how much impact a single human can have on the lives of so many others. If you go to see this production for either of these, you won't be disappointed.

It's an important anniversary for Beef & Boards in 2023: 50 years of bringing professional theater productions to Indianapolis! In honor of this incredible achievement, they have planned a diverse and exciting season lineup. There are familiar shows, like BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, and fun new additions, like CLUE. You can buy your tickets now, consider a gift certificate as a gift, or even invest in their VIP membership for perks like discounts on next season's holiday classic, WHITE CHRISTMAS. Don't miss out on your chance to enjoy what's sure to be a memorable season!



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