Above: From left to right: Helena Tafuri as Violet Bick, Rodney Witherspoon II as Harry Bailey, Lynsey Ford as Mary Hatch, Jeff Church as George Bailey, Fred Sullivan, Jr. as Henry F. Potter, Richard Noble as Billy Bailey. Credit: Gamm Theatre
We arrived at the Gamm Theatre with only a minute or two to spare but the benefit was to enter a theater already well warmed with a bright holiday glow. That’s because the company performs a singalong before each performance. We arrived in time for the final song – 12 Days of Christmas – and boy was it fun!
With Milly Massey on piano, Will Malloy as the show’s onstage foley artist (i.e. sound effects man) kept up a furious pace at the direction of Rodney Witherspoon II, urging us all to sing ever faster.
The conceit behind the singalong and this version of It’s a Wonderful Life, a story made famous in the 1946 movie starring Jimmy Stewart, is that we are the live audience for a 1940s-style radio show, complete with said foley artist, microphones of the period, “Applause” signs on either side of the stage, period costumes, and actors playing more than one character, sometimes in tandem.
I’ll cut to the chase: It really works! If you are looking for a charming holiday experience, you need look no further. This isn’t cotton candy, as anyone familiar with the movie will tell you. The story is one of thwarted dreams and steadfast loyalty to a family business.
George Bailey, the protagonist, is played this year by Jeff Church, who brings an urgency to the role. Lynsey Ford plays love interest Mary Hatch (and Rose Bailey). Fred Sullivan plays both Clarence the angel and the devilish Mr. Potter as well as an assortment of other characters. Sullivan is well known for his larger-than-life portrayals, something that works very well in this production. Rounding out the cast are Helena Tafuri and Richard Noble. The entire cast embodied their radio voice roles seamlessly. Even the “ads” were fun. I will never think of Greenwood Credit Union again without thinking of Massey’s smooth intonation of the name.
The show runs without an intermission at just over 90 minutes. It runs through Dec. 24. Get tickets and more information HERE.