Peggy Sue Dunigan

“It’s a Wonderful Life” coming to Sunset Playhouse

By - Nov 20th, 2010 05:52 pm
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George Bailey’s story has been told for over sixty years. Similar to Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and Irving Berlin’s White Christmas, Frank Capra’s 1946 film It’s A Wonderful Life stands as a holiday tradition.

This season, the Sunset Playhouse brings a contemporary adaptation by James Rodgers to their stage under Mark Salentine’s direction and artistic vision. (Ed. note: In a statement released on Nov. 19, the Sunset Playhouse has eliminated the position of Artistic Director. Salentine will continue on in the position until Dec. 1, 2010)

Salentine believes the audience will engage with this classic evening in live theater, and potentially make a vital connection to George Bailey’s life — a life lived with a positive and optimistic perspective despite difficult economic times and personal setbacks, whether by choice or fate.

For anyone unfamiliar with the iconic film, George Bailey sacrifices his college and travel dreams in order for his brother, Harry to attend college first. George ends up marrying his high school sweetheart, Mary, and managing the family Bailey Building and Loan business with his Uncle Billy. When a critical mistake made by someone else is used against him, George accepts all the responsibility.

For George, after years of putting other’s first, his own life has become unbearable as he faces financial ruin in spite of all his efforts. As he contemplates ending it all, a bumbling, hard luck angel named Clarence (played b 80-year old Richard Wenzel at the Sunset) arrives to show George just how much he has to live for.

“There’s a little George Bailey in all of us⎯as a youth you dream things. Even if they don’t come true, you’re life can still be wonderful,” Salentine explains.

Each rehearsal for the show, opening Nov. 24,  begins with a “wonderful life moment,”  in which Salentine asks cast members “What have you done in your life to make it wonderful?” He says that the actor’s stories sets the tone and motivates the scenes to help present the production “sincerely and without sentimentality, with the acting and story elements coming through their performances if they’re earned.”

In a cynical and frightening world, Salentine invites theatergoers to enjoy the present moment and to create their own holiday memories with these evening performances. This stage adaptation excerpts exact lines from the original movie, although there will be elements unique to the Sunset production opening like new gifts on stage.

It’s A Wonderful Life reminds us that whether we knows it or not, everyone has contributed something significant in their life. As Clarence tells George, “No man is a failure who has friends.”

Sunset Playhouse presents It’s A Wonderful Life November 24 through December 19. For tickets call: 262.414.4430, or visit Sunset Playhouse online.

Categories: Arts & Culture, Theater

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