RCT's 'Wonderful Life' delivers season's greetings

Hopefully you have tickets for Rochester Civic Theatre 's production of "It's a Wonderful Life."If not, you'll be stuck with yet another television rerun of the holiday classic about George Bailey, his guardian angel and the good (most of them anyway) folks of Bedford Falls.

The production, which opened last Friday, is completely sold outfor every performance — not unusual when it comes to Christmas-season shows at RCT. What is somewhat unusual is that this show, with a running time of less than two hours and very little in the way of music, is rather plain compared with past Christmas extravaganzas at RCT.

It still, however, delivers a nice, heartwarming messagefor the holidays.

Nearly everyone knows the story of "It's a Wonderful Life." George, who has tried to do good all his life, isn't sure his efforts have amounted to anything. He's in financial trouble, feels he has let everyone down, and is ready to call it quits and jump off a bridge. Then his angel, Clarence, shows up and helps George see that, without him, a lot of people in town would be living lives of desperation.

Lundberg brings an edginess to his portrait of George, especially as George grows increasingly frustrated with his life. Lundberg eventually finds a good balance and is particularly effective in the scenes where Clarence shows him how life in Bedford Falls would be different if George had never been born.


Dietman's Clarence, all in white, looks a bit like Mark Twain — and who wouldn't want Mark Twain as a guardian angel?Stier is ever so sweet as Mary, while the likable Schrandt has the difficult task of making us believe Potter is really as mean as his reputation. By the way, Schrandt played an entirely different character, Kris Kringle, in last year's holiday production of "The Musical Miracle on 34th Street" at RCT.

The other two dozen members of the cast play the Bedford Falls townsfolk and Bailey relatives, but few have more than a couple of lines to speak.

The show requires rapid changesfrom scene to scene and set to set, as we whirl around town, from the Bailey home, the savings and loan office, Potter's office, a cemetery — a regular chamber of commerce tour of Bedford Falls. The changes are handled with a minimum of disruption.

As mentioned RCT's "It's a Wonderful Life" might be underwhelmingfor audiences conditioned to expect really big shows at Christmas time. Don't overlook, however, the play's timeless holiday message.

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