Capra holiday classic again brought to `Life'

Production: Veteran cast members reprise their roles for what has become an annual tradition.

November 15, 2001|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Now in its fifth incarnation, Pasadena Theatre Company's It's a Wonderful Life has become a local holiday tradition.

Although the location might change from year to year, the company's president, Sharon Steele, who has directed every production of the show, says there are reasons for the show's enduring popularity with audiences - and with performers.

"The reason the cast and audience members return year after year, either to perform or to see the show, is because each year reaffirms their beliefs in the value of their own lives as well as the lives of their friends and loved ones," Steele said. "Each year reminds me of a special anniversary to celebrate, a celebration of the renewal and revival of our faith and love in each other, regardless of religious backgrounds. We have the strength and knowledge of believing that everything is going to be all right in spite of the gruesome happenings in the world."

Steele is also pleased to report: "The cast and staff have become a close, loving family who now look forward to sharing George Bailey's story yet another year."

The world has changed since Sept. 11, and there is a consensus that many of us are more concerned with family values and have found comfort in returning to the sort of patriotism that was prevalent during the World War II era. This is the period of It's a Wonderful Life, which exemplified those values.

Frank Capra's 1946 movie It's a Wonderful Life stars James Stewart as Bedford Falls banker George Bailey, who discovers that anyone who has friends is not a failure. This show evokes nostalgia for an era when many believed that hard work and self-sacrifice would lead to success.

The company presented It's a Wonderful Life at Woods Community Center in 1997. For the past three years, the company performed the play in the Humanities Recital Hall at Anne Arundel Community College, where it will return for one weekend this season. Having moved to Chesapeake Center for the Creative Arts last spring, the company expected to have performances there on both weekends, but have found the smaller theater is available only on Thanksgiving weekend.

Todd Krickler, who played George Bailey last year (easily the best actor I've seen in the role), is back this year. Stephanie Nevin, so convincing as Mary Hatch Bailey in previous productions, returns to the role for the fourth time.

A number of cast members are creating their own traditions. Marty Hayes plays Clarence Goodbody, the angel who has to earn his wings, for the fifth time, as does Anthony Anzalone, who returns as pharmacist Mr. Gower. Chuck Dick returns as the richest and stingiest man in town, Henry Potter, and Douglas Kotula will play Harry Bailey for the fourth time.

Other cast members include: Johnathan Grubbkruger as young George, Melissa Maud as Ruth Bailey, Judie DiCarlo as Mother Bailey, Patti Restivo as Aunt Tilly, Tara Dilworth as Violet Peterson, Al Cicero as Bert, David Duvall as Ernie and Keith Thompson as Uncle Billy.

It's a Wonderful Life opens the day after Thanksgiving at Chesapeake Center for the Creative Arts with performances at 8 p.m. Nov. 23 and 24 and at 3 p.m. Nov. 25.

Tickets are $12 for arts center and theater company members or $15 for nonmembers, and can be reserved by calling 410-636-6597.

Tickets are the same price for the weekend of Nov. 30 through Dec. 2 at the community college's Humanities Recital Hall. Discounted tickets only apply to theatre company members. Seats can be reserved at the college by calling 410-969-1801.

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