Theatre

Thursday, 23 November 2017 21:10

TATC's A Wonderful Life is Wonderful Fun

The classic film It’s A Wonderful Life, based on the story The Greatest Gift, is brought to life by Theatre At The Center just in time for the holidays with their latest presentation A Wonderful Life: The Musical. In TATC’s adaptation, the story is intertwined with many big song and dance numbers, one of which stands out is the high school dance scene that includes an enlivened choreographed Charleston competition.

The story takes place in Bedford Falls, where George is met with a series of challenges while a series of incidents keeps him in the quaint town where he reluctantly takes over his father’s building and loans business rather than exploring the world and going to college to become an architect. As with any good story, we have a nemesis, in this case the nefarious Mr. Potter who claims ownership to the town’s largest bank where he can hold residents to high interest and rental rates in his slums. George aims to give the townsfolk a better option. Why should people have to wait until they are old and tired to have a home to raise their family, he asks.

George finds love with his longtime crush Mary, eventually building a family of his own. George might be scrapping by, but he has a loving family and is a source of easy loans for Bedford residents, which enables them to purchase homes with little or no collateral – many deals based on trust rather than the stringent criteria that Potter would require. Thus, he becomes a thorn in Potter’s side.
When the bank calls a loan (on Christmas Eve?) on the building and loans and his Uncle Billy misplaces a hefty deposit, his world quickly comes crashing down. Fraud, imprisonment or worse, he fears. Crawling to Potter, he is denied a loan to bail himself out. It is when he realizes that he is worth more dead than alive, only $500 in equity on a $15,000 life insurance policy, he thinks the unthinkable and (in this adaptation) heads for the train tracks to end it all. Of course, Clarence, his guardian angel, has other plans.

It is when Clarence saves him and George states he wishes he was never born at all, that such a wish is granted. In doing so, George sees the positive affects he has on so very many people and realizes what a “wonderful life” he really has, after all.

David Sajewich plays George Bailey in this classic tale of hope, goodwill and the human spirit. Sajawich, who was last seen at TATC in All Shook Up, does an admirable job as Bailey. It takes a bit of time to warm up to Sajawich as Bailey, though he really cements himself into the role during the scene at building and loans after his father passes and the board is looking for solutions and new leadership. That’s when we really get a feel for George Bailey and his caring nature for the townspeople and animosity towards Potter.

Mary Hatch (soon to be Mary Bailey) is wonderfully played by Allison Sill who so beautifully captures the heart of gold spirit in the character also wowing the audience on many occasions with her accomplished vocal range. James Harms as the evil Henry Potter really gives the second act a powerful punch as his character becomes more and more sinister, while David Perkovich is excellently cast as George’s lovable guardian angel, Clarence. As most every TATC production, we are offered a strong ensemble that can sing and dance with the best of them.

The set, though minimal, is creatively worked to provide (with a bit of audience imagination) the several different locations for the story’s many scenes. Gordon Schmidt lights up the stage with his dazzling choreography, perhaps one of the show’s brightest contributions.

A Wonderful Life: The Musical is the perfect holiday treat whether a fan of the classic film or not. There are plenty of moments in this production that capture the film’s magic and several flashes of wonderment that are created with its own musical numbers.

A Wonderful Life: The Musical is being performed at Theatre at the Center in Munster, IN. For more show information visit www.TheatreAtTheCenter.com.

Published in Upcoming Theatre

Another TV classic has found itself in a musical, this time being The Beverly Hillbillies. Credited as one of the most popular shows of all time, The Beverly Hillbillies aired from 1962 through 1971 and told the story of a backwoods family that found wealth in oil and then migrated to stuffy Beverly Hills where they were completely out of their element. Most of us are already familiar with the Clampett clan headed by the all too honest and often naïve Jed and his short-tempered nevertheless often sweet Granny, who would choose eating possum innards any day over y’alls favorite fine dining establishments. Jed’s daughter, tomboy yet bombshell Elly May is along for the ride with his ever so gullible nephew Jethro, who is as dumb as dumb gets – and we love him for it.

elly mayTheatre at the Center in Munster, Indiana (30 minutes from downtown Chicago) has taken on the world premiere of “The Beverly Hillbillies – The Musical” where our favorite family from the sticks will grace the stage through August 10th. The book is shared by the team of Tony-nominated David Rogers, who passed away before its completion, and daughter Amanda, who took over from where her father left off. Composer Gregg Opelka was then called in to handle the music and lyrics. The final result is a lukewarm comedy with a wide assortment of songs, some hitting and some missing. One of the more memorable numbers comes as  Act One’s closing number - “Stamp It Like A Clampett”, a rootin’ tootin’ hoedown- throw-down that gets the audience clapping their hands and stomping their feet. Thereis just enough intrigue in the storyline to keep it interesting as the Clampetts are getting hustled for some of their millions by a couple of quirky grifters and there is just enough Beverly Hillbilly-esque humor to bring out a plausible amount of laughs.

As sure as Granny’s cooking is sure to cure what ails ya, Theatre at the Center puts forth a strong cast for this production. Local theatre trouper and Jeff-Award winner James Harms leads the way as “Jed” while Kelly Anne Clark can be downright adorable at times as “Granny”. The Clampetts are rounded out with fellow Jeff-Award winner Summer Smart romping around as the innocent, wide-eyed and button poppin’ “Elly May”, while John Stemberg gets his dumb on as likeable and simple “Jethro”. Thanks to this talented foursome, we have an assemblage of heartwarming country bumpkins who are still capable of occasionally tugging at our heartstrings despite not having the strongest of material to work with.

The show does have a strong visual presence as it is set inside a large mansion complete with more than ample square footage for the actors to freely frolic around. Its defining prop also makes a welcomed appearance much to the audience’s delight – the Clampett’s famous jalopy complete with Granny aboard her rocking chair in the bed of the truck as seen in the TV series’ opening credits.

The Beverly Hillbillies – The Musical, directed by David Perkovich, has just the adequate share of happy-as-a-raccoon-up-to-its-knees-in-vittles moments and downhome fun to keep it on the cusp of sufficiently entertaining, making it hard to imagine this becoming a musical comedy that will go down in theatre history.

For tickets and/or more information on The Beverly Hillbillies – The Musical, visit http://www.theatreatthecenter.com/ or call 219-836-3255.      

Published in Theatre Reviews

 

 

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