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

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide


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entire contents copyright 2015 by Tony Annicone

"It's A Wonderful Life"

A Review by Tony Annicone

The holiday musical at Ocean Stater Theatre Company this year is "It's A Wonderful Life, The Musical". Based on the beloved 1946 film, this family friendly musical faithfully follows the familiar story of George Bailey's life from childhood dreams to midlife disappointments. After George wishes he had never been born, an angel is sent to earth to make his wish come true and we all take the journey to discover whether his time on earth has mattered at all. Cinematically scored, this musical adaptation breathes new life into a familiar story, while retaining the warmth, humor and pathos of the original. Director Amiee Turner picked a phenomenal leading man to portray George Bailey in Kevin Cirone who is onstage the entire show. His comic timing as well as his dramatic acting as he wrings every bit of pathos from this role,leaving the audience in tears. Add a superb baritone voice to complete the perfect actor in this role and you have the necessary ingredients for a very successful Christmas musical that audiences of all ages can enjoy thoroughly from start to finish. The musical score adds layers to these well known characters from the movie version especially Mary Hatch's character as the audience discovers she yearned for George all through high school by being madly in love with him as she reveals in "My George Bailey." Bravo on a job extremely well done!

The rest of the 25 member cast are wonderful vocalists and performers, too. Musical director John Jay Espino and his five piece orchestra add the finishing touches to this marvelous holiday musical. He taught the talented 26 member cast these 22 songs with some of the best vocalists around. Amiee's choreography includes a show stopping Charleston, a dance to "Christmas Eve" song and a soft shoe for Clarence and George to "It's A Wonderful Life" reprise. Some of Kevin's numbers include "You Are Now in Bedford Falls" which welcomes Clarence and the audience into the town and "My Life" which brings the house down when George decides to live after all. His duets include "If You Want the Moon" when he brings Mary to the Granville House, "We've Got to Stick Together" when he and Mary convince the crowd to let him pay them money to avoid a run on the bank and "It's A Wonderful Life" when George finds out Mary is having his baby. Melissa McKamie, a gorgeous brunette, with a stunning soprano voice plays Mary excellently. Her songs bring added depth to the role "If You Want the Moon", "My George Bailey" and "My Future" which fleshes her character's innermost thoughts to the audience. Kevin and Melissa have terrific chemistry together and their children played by strong young performers are Wesley Memery, Isabella Manchester, Robert Goulet Jr. and Kate Rocchio as Pete, Janie, Tommy and Zuzu Bailey.

The horrible and evil Mr. Potter is fantastically played by Peter Tedeschi. He drips with venom from every pore of his body as he tries to destroy George and the Saving and Loan Company for many years. When he keeps the $8000 that Uncle Billy accidentally gives him and tells George that he will have him arrested is just one of his most despicable acts. He sings a Scrooge like song called "Tell Me What You Want" when he tries to buy George off with $20,000 a year salary and "Go Ahead and Run" when he threatens George with being arrested. Peter also plays kind hearted Mr. Bailey singing "A Place to Call Home" with Marion Markham as Ma Bailey. Two comic characters are Rudy Sanda and Stefani Wood as the Martinis who sing "Bless You George Bailey" when he gives them their house. They have funny Italian accents and the melody of that song is "O Solo Mio."

One of the biggest scene stealers of the show is Jef Canter as Clarence, the Angel. He doesn't have his wings yet but if he manages to save George, he might get them after all. His antics are priceless as he learns about George's life in Act 1 and during Act 2 tries to rescue him but ends up falling into the water only to be rescued by George.  Jef does a marvelous song and dance to "Second Class Angel" and then shows George how Bedford Falls became "Pottersville" if he never was born. The forgetful Uncle Billy is well played by Tom Gleadow who mocks Mr. Potter in the bank when he sings "You Can't Keep Those Bailey Brothers Down" while dancing up a storm. The sympathetic Cousin Tilly is beautifully played by Taryn Mallard-Reid while Violet, the flirting classmate of George, is well played by Taylor Elise Rector, a gorgeous blonde bombshell who is a fabulous dancer. Kudos to the entire cast and crew on a magnificent job on this musical extravaganza. Be sure to run to the boxoffice to get tickets for this show before the entire run is sold out. Make sure you catch "It's A Wonderful Life, The Musical" at Ocean State Theatre Company to usher in this festive holiday season. A word of praise to scenic designer Katryne Hecht and costume designer Emily Taradash for their stellar work on this show.

"It's A Wonderful Life" (2 - 27 December)
@ 1245 Jefferson Boulevard, WARWICK RI

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide