If you haven’t been to see A Wonderful Life: The Musical at the Schoolhouse Arts Center this holiday season, don’t miss your chance next weekend. “It will put you in the Christmas Spirit if you aren’t already,” said board president Christina McBreairty in her introduction to the show on Saturday, December 12th, and it certainly did.
Adapted from Frank Capra’s classic film It’s a Wonderful Life, the story is a familiar one. A man, disillusioned with the life he is leading, and finding himself in a tight spot, fails to recognize all that he has. With the help of a guardian angel, and a host of townspeople who show him just what he means to them, he comes to realize that it is, indeed, a wonderful life.
Schoolhouse brings the story to life with a vibrant cast that draws the audience into the story, evoking emotions that most people have felt at some point in their lives. In the holiday season, it’s easy to get caught up in all the things we want and don’t have, or all the things we can’t provide. This show helps remind us how valuable the people in our lives are, and how much more that means than material things.
The scenery is simple, and that keeps the focus on the cast, which is substantial in both size and talent. A few quick transfers of furniture easily create a multitude of settings, including a lively street, a bustling restaurant, and the insides of the characters offices and homes.
Steven Koskinen brings George to life, detailing his plight with great expression and feeling. He touches the audience with his convincing portrayal of both a loyal and caring man, and a man who has big dreams that have never been realized. In the second act, the feeling of defeat comes through strong, particularly in the moving number “Precious Little.” And at the end, his sense of wonder and accomplishment when he realizes just what he’s had all along creates an uplifting ending that leaves the audience smiling.
Tom Ferent’s Clarence is a show stealer, as he perfectly captures the innocent qualities of an angel seeking his wings. His performance of the song “Wings” was a bit of lighthearted relief in the otherwise more somber first act of the show.
The musical numbers helped create a sense of unity from scene to scene, and the full ensemble scenes in particular created the small town feel that is so important to the story. Earlier scenes show neighbors coming together both in happiness and distress, and make the scene in the “unborn sequence” more powerful with its sense of disconnection and the final scene more touching as the town bands together to help George.
A Wonderful Life: The Musical is a feel good addition to the busy holiday season, and the Schoolhouse Arts Center brings it to life with enthusiasm and pizzazz. The final weekend runs December 18-20, with shows on Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets can be purchased online by visiting www.schoolhousearts.org, or reserved by calling 207-642-3743.