note: entire contents copyright 2007 by Beverly Creasey
According to film historian Leonard Maltin, IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE began as a short story that Philip Stern sent to friends as a Christmas card. When the bittersweet story of George Bailey and his “blessings in disguise” was finally made into a film in l946, it was Frank Capra who added just the right amount of sentiment and whimsy to the tale. If you’ve never seen the movie, run out as soon as possible and rent it. It’s a gem. If you know and love the film, the Lyric Stage has an adorable one-man show for you (playing through Dec. 22nd). Funnyman Neil A. Casey narrates, comments on the many cinematic peculiarities in the script, and plays all the parts. Conceived by Mark Setlock (of FULLY COMMITTED fame) and written by Steve Murray, THIS WONDERFUL LIFE is just hip enough for the adults (Casey tells us, with naughty glee, that the gymnasium scene is “just like the pool scene in ROCKY HORROR”)---and silly enough for the children, who giggled aplenty at my performance. Casey does Bailey with lots of Jimmy Stewart’s “aw shucks” and just a smidgeon of James Cagney when he says “see!” My favorite scene has Casey playing double for Stewart and Donna Reed’s first kiss. The descriptions of mean old Mr. Potter get more and more outrageous as the play progresses and the pace gets more and more frenetic as the stakes are raised. Thankfully, director Jack Neary keeps the story from becoming maudlin. It’s light and touching---- and a tad remarkable, to think that you can make fun of something and not sacrifice the charming spirit of the work. Jenna McFarland Lord’s Bedford Falls set is elegantly simple, with a bridge for the almost-suicide and a few street signs which change when Bailey sees what has happened to the town without him having ever existed. Dewey Dellay’s sound is perfection, right down to the Theremin for those “never been born” scenes. John Cuff gives us sparkly winter light which catches the glittering snowflakes and brightens our hearts.