I went into this cold. I have never seen the movie, or a stage production, or even read the book (if there is a book).
Why in the hell didn't somebody tell me it was about a guy who wants to commit suicide and gets saved by an angel?
The production really sparkles. Kyle Connealy as George Bailey has a good grasp of character, and had his hat tilted at just that perfect Jimmy Stewart angle. It's usually quite difficult for kids to play adults, but Kyle's George glows with authenticity.
I'll tell you what, though...the entire cast does a really good job. The role of Clarence (the angel) is shared by two actors, and Aaron Lofton played it tonight. Aaron has an off-beat take on an off-beat character, and the result is a bravado performance.
Kelsey Fritz has come up through the ranks at Sam Bass (where she started with the lead in "Anne of Green Gables"), and it is always a joy to see her gain more and more understanding of her craft. She SO made me wish that Mary Hatch was a real person!
Larissa Slota, who is, I think, the last of Jim's students still in theater at Round Rock High School, was excellent as Violet, giving the character that extra spunky sparkle.
Ismael Soto who has had some pretty huge roles over the years, especially in "Ordinary People," where he played Conrad's father, managed to stand out without ever saying a word in this one. His sole function was to schlep Mr Potter around in his wheelchair. Technically. What he did was mirror every expression on Mr Potter's face. Sort of like a "maxi-me," because he is far too tall to me a "mini" anything.
Which brings me to Mr Potter. I know I have seen Carlyle Champion in other roles and other plays, but this is the one I will forever associate with him. His portrayal of the infirm and obnoxious Scrooge-ish money-grubbing banker is right on the (heh) money. You can actually SEE that he is jealous of the physical abilities of the Baileys. At times, he appeared to be channelling Eddie Murphy. I can't remember in what movie the ubiquitous Eddie played a grim and silent character, but I'll bet Mr Champion can.
The ensemble can rock some Christmas carols, the little Bailey kids are adorable, the set economically wonderful, and the entire staging extremely well done.
"It's a Wonderful Life" runs tomorrow and Saturday, the 12th and 13th, and then next Wednesday through Saturday, the 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th. It's at the PAC by McNeil High School, in the Black Box. Performances start at 7:30, but you are going to want to be there by seven at the latest. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students.
I just have one question.
Where was Clarence last year, when Jim needed him?