River Hill's `Life' skillfully tells a tale of triumph

The cast sparkles in a production full of Christmas cheer

Review

November 18, 2007|By Margaret Erickson | Margaret Erickson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Silence and darkness flooded the auditorium as a string of prayers emanated from above focusing on a single man, George Bailey. The pervading question: "What makes a man so desperate as to consider suicide on Christmas Eve?"

River Hill High School's recent production of It's a Wonderful Life tells a tale of the triumph of love during difficult times and illustrates a newfound appreciation of friendship and life.

Straying slightly from the original 1946 film by Frank Capra, the River Hill production of It's a Wonderful Life recounted the story of George Bailey, who is given a chance to reflect on his life and the effect he has had on others. While contemplating suicide, George is confronted by the wingless angel, Clarence, who is sent to help him during his most desperate hour. Clarence shows George flashbacks of his life, including the days he fell in love, took his father's position at the Bailey Building and Loan and fought the sinister Mr. Potter and financial ruin.

River Hill's It's a Wonderful Life was brimming with Christmas cheer, familiar carols, and a message of goodwill toward men. Equipped with an understanding of comedic timing, Steve Synk was a shoo-in for the role of George Bailey.

When paired with the vocally gifted Michelle Shankar, playing Mary Hatch-Bailey, Synk created a slightly awkward yet charming George - complete with perfectly placed pauses and humorously shy hesitations. Together, Synk and Shankar almost replicated the 1946 film performances of Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed.

Kudos to Taylor Peppers, who had the tricky job of playing the hateful antagonist Mr. Potter while using a wheelchair. Relying on his goon (Kyle Bailey) as his only means of mobility, Peppers was a genuine `Scrooge' of Christmas, skillfully using hand gestures along with his meticulous use of voice and facial quirks.

River Hill's simple set promoted increased creativity in blocking, smooth scene changes and an emphasis on the time period. The crew successfully brought the audience back to the 1940s with candlestick-style telephones, the dated wheelchair and vintage winter apparel and hats.

Though George Bailey was at times desperate, River Hill's production of It's a Wonderful Life was far from any similar danger as the cast turned in a beautiful performance.

Margaret Erickson, a student at Long Reach High School, reviewed "It's a Wonderful Life" for the Cappies of Baltimore, a program in which students review high school productions under the direction of their teachers and vote on awards for outstanding performances.

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