Theatre Mirror Reviews - "It's A Wonderful Life"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"


entire contents copyright 2006 by Tony Annicone

"It's A Wonderful Life"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The current production of Company Theatre is the traditional holiday classic "It's a Wonderful Life". It's a series of 30 vignettes which tells the story of George Bailey, a good man who stumbles upon some difficult times and in an act of true desperation, is offered the chance to the value of his own life by his guardian angel, Clarence. George finds out that "no man is a failure who has friends." For years his family run business, The Bailey Brothers Building and Loan had been an asset to the small community of Bedford Falls, offering loans to ordinary people of good character when the regular bank wouldn't consider them. However the Building and Loan company has been a thorn in the side of the nasty and mean Mr. Potter, who wants to control all commerce in town. The defeat of this insidious creature is wonderful to behold and directors Zoe Bradford and Jordie Saucerman mold their huge cast into these characters of the past beautifully, mixing the joyous and dramatic moments together so at the close of the show, the audience jumps to its feet to cheer George Bailey's success at realizing that it is a wonderful life after all. Music director Michael Joseph recreates some of the music from the movie while adding his own musical songs to create the perfect accompaniment to this holiday tale.

Zoe and Jordie's well crafted Christmas tale is a fabulous alternative to "Christmas Carol" and the talented people they cast in these roles bring them to life in the best way possible. The blocking of this huge cast is well done as are the dance numbers especially exuberant Charleston number by Sally Ashton Forrest. Michael not only music directs this show but plays the keyboards as does Beth Stafford with her husband, Tom on trumpet and Scott Brenner as the percussionist. Songs include Buffalo Gals, Ave Maria, Hark the Herald Angels and Auld Lang Syne. The multitude of sets were built by Jordie, taking 3 months to complete them. From the backdrops to the outside facades of the town buildings to their interiors and the excellent bridge set complete with snow, Jordie outdid herself with this one. Michael Warner is fabulous as the older George Bailey. His portrayal shows off an inner warmth and caring for his family members that can't be beat, melting the hearts of the audience with his sincerity. Michael also handles the comedy of the role with ease. Bravo. The younger George played by Paul Vaillancourt shows off his acting skills and tugs at your heartstrings when he saves the local druggist from accidentally poisoning a young boy with the wrong medication.

Another winning performance is by Frank Piekut as Clarence, the Angel who finally wins his wings by saving George's life. His lovable and whimsical character wins the day and endears himself to the audience beautifully. Kelly Browne is excellent as Mary Bailey, George's wife who helps bail George out of his money problem at the end of the show. Their four children played by Luke, Olivia and Liam Sullivan and Julia Vaillancourt also standout in this show with some strong acting by youngsters. Steve Dooner is comical as the forgetful Uncle Billy who loses $8000, getting George into trouble while Annie, the maid is played by Jeanette Lake-Jackson who delivers her many one liners wonderfully. Bert and Ernie are well played Bob Hollis and Marc Ewart while Christopher Iredale, a high school senior does a great job as George's younger brother, Harry. The villain of this show is Mr. Potter played by veteran Broadway actor, Neil Jones who retired from Broadway 30 years ago. So for a fun filled Christmas show that will make you laugh and cry in all the right places as well as help bring you into the holiday spirit, be sure to catch "It's a Wonderful Life" at Company Theatre. Tell them Tony sent you.

"It's A Wonderful Life" (24 November - 17 December)
THE COMPANY THEATRE
30 Accord Park Drive, NORWELL MA
1 (401)726-6860

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide

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