Tuesday, December 11, 2007

On Creating "It's A Wonderful Life" For the Stage

I was recently interviewed by Bob Bell at WRJZ radio about the stage show of Frank Capra's "It's A Wonderful Life", which I directed for the Morristown Theatre Guild. My thanks to WRJZ for the publicity and you can hear the interview by clicking here.

You have three more chances to see this most heartwarming Christmas story - Dec 14, 15 and 16 - at First Presbyterian Church, and you can make reservations just by calling 423-586-9260.

Several creative decisions were in my brain as we began to create this live stage version: it had to be done in black and white (just like the movie); using a children's caroling chorus to start the show off would set a perfect tone for the story; and the end of the show would change to vivid color since poor George Bailey decides his life is most wonderful after all.

I also wanted a very central image in the set to be of the town of Bedford Falls, the setting of the play. Most fortunately, a local artist (and Guild board member) named Pamela Andrew took an image I'd found from the movie and made an enormous 12' by 8' backdrop from it. Her work is truly impressive, as you can see below, although just looking at this backdrop without the proper stage context really does not do enough justice to her many hours of work:

I like the way it looks like an old Christmas card from the era of the movie, and it does add a real sense of place to the show.

I also have to add many thanks to the cast, crew and the Theatre Guild board for allowing me to work on this show. In the past, I have directed shows that were mystery thrillers and some comedies too. So the real challenge for me here was to help shape a production which is pure family wholesome goodness, and not let it be cheesy schmaltz. I must say too that the work of the cast, who tirelessly put themselves into this world of Bedford Falls, have made the characters very real and personable, all of which, in my opinion, keeps the show realistic and humorous.

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