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BWW Review: THIS WONDERFUL LIFE, Raleigh Little Theatre

A great spin on a classic holiday film

BWW Review: THIS WONDERFUL LIFE, Raleigh Little Theatre

"I love 'It's a Wonderful Life.' I love it so much, I'm gonna do it for you all by myself," the narrator tells the audience at the top of THIS WONDERFUL LIFE. The show is now playing at Raleigh Little Theatre both virtually and in person just in time for the holiday season. This one-woman play is an adaptation of the classic Christmas film "It's A Wonderful Life" and Amy White Pridgen brings plenty of enthusiasm and pluck.

Written by Steve Murray and directed by Patrick Torres, it manages to cover the whole film's plot in just seventy-five minutes, making it easy to fit in even if you have lots of holiday plans. A digital program is available on your phone whether you're watching from the theater or your couch.

The play's source material, "It's a Wonderful Life," was released in 1946 and starred James Stewart and Donna Reed. It's a surprisingly dark tale for a Christmas movie about a man named George Bailey who contemplates taking his own life before the interference of the angel Clarence. Clarence gives George a glimpse at what his hometown, Bedford Falls, would be like if he had never been born, demonstrating the impact that one person's life has on all those around them.

Directed by Frank Capra, the film was financially unsuccessful when it was released and received mixed reviews from critics. Despite this, it was nominated for five Academy Awards including Best Picture. It frequently appears on lists of the best movies ever made and often tops polls of people's favorite Christmas films.

Adapting such a beloved and complex story is certainly a challenge and there are things that a film can do that can't be replicated in this one-person format. The narrator tells the audience the story, inserting commentary alongside as well as impressions of the actors in the film. It definitely is meant for people who are familiar with the film and I can imagine that it might be confusing for anyone who hasn't seen it, or at least most of the jokes wouldn't land. It includes tons of little details from the film, down to the broken handle on the staircase.

BWW Review: THIS WONDERFUL LIFE, Raleigh Little TheatreThe show isn't afraid to make fun of the film and its characters a bit, but does so in a loving way. It's full of humor, partially derived from Pridgen's imitation of the transatlantic accent used in films from that era.

Dressed in an oversize plaid suit, vest, and tie, Pridgen opens the show with a series of energetic impressions before slowing down to deliver the story more fully. She is able to maintain that same high energy with her expressive facial expressions throughout the show, doing spot-on imitations of each actor.

THIS WONDERFUL LIFE may not be as touching as the movie it's based on, but it's certainly much funnier. It's a treat for anyone who loves the film and wants to get into the holiday mood this season.

In-person performances continue through December 20, while the show is available to stream online from the comfort of your home until December 25. For information on the safety precautions that Raleigh Little Theatre is taking for in-person performances, you can visit their website. (https://raleighlittletheatre.org/shows/this-wonderful-life/)

Photo Credit: Jeremy Diamon




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From This Author Nicole Ackman