Arts & Leisure

“It’s A Wonderful Life” is fun and warm

“IT”S A WONDERFUL LIFE” in musical form is now playing at the Rose Center Theater in Westminster. Above, George (Tim Nelson) and Violet (Taylor Herbel).

By Thom deMartino

One only appreciates what they truly have, once they’ve lost it.

In the new musical “It’s A Wonderful Life” at the Rose Center Theater in Westminster, George Bailey (Tim Nelson) is at the end of his rope: not only is he falsely accused of fraud, and sought by the police, but the business that is his family’s legacy is going under – taking the last vestiges of his long-deferred dreams with it. At his wits end, and pondering throwing himself from the snow-covered bridge into the icy waters below, George looks up to the heavens, desperate for his prayers to be heard…

And indeed they are — by the angel Joseph (Robin Harrison), and his bumbling protege, Clarence (Cliff Senior) — but while Joseph is focused on saving George’s life (as well as his soul), Clarence is a little too selfishly focused on his own predicament: earning his wings. (“It’s been 200 years,” he bemoans. “The Seraphim are starting to talk…”)

The senior angel precedes to show his junior scenes from despondent man’s life that have led him to this precipice, as both angels and the audience are witness to George’s many selfless decisions and actions. He shoulders the burdens of friends and loved ones, takes on the responsibilities that others around him have shirked… all the while, his precious dreams of travel and education drift further and further away from him.

For anyone else, they might consider themselves as having a string of bad luck: but George has soldiered on, taking over the family business after his father’s passing (with the help of his absent-minded uncle, Billy, played by Ron Lipp) and continuing to hold the reins steady while his brother goes off to war. The kindhearted man even cuts short his wedding celebration to the lovely Mary (Alexis Karol) trying to save the homes of the down-on-their luck friends and townsfolk, using his honeymoon savings) – with Mary’s blessing – to keep the locals out of the grasp and shady machinations of the duplicitous investor Mr. Potter (Chris Caputo, in another villainous turn this season), who has been trying to take over the company for years.

But all the stress and tension has finally built to a head, to the point that this devoted family man is about to snap: willing to throw away everything, including his life. Can the fumbling and hapless Clarence help George to see the light?

While it may surprise some that this holiday show is more musical than drama, many will be quite pleased with it – and Nelson, Karol and Caputo shine in their respective roles (as does Taylor Herbel as Mary’s friend, Violet). The first act of the show can meander a bit, what with the extended backstory of how George has reached this breaking point (though that is upon the writer, and by no means the cast): the second act, however, is much more streamlined, flying by as the audience witnesses the meeting of George and Clarence, and how the angel second class tries to persuade the downtrodden man of the value of life — and how even just one individual’s actions can have repercussions on so many others. There is even a heartwarming sing-along for the audience and the cast at the end of the production, certainly contributing to the warm holiday spirit.

A lovely, touching and sentimental show, fit for the whole family and playing for a limited time at the Rose Center, “It’s A Wonderful Life” is a fitting way for theatergoers to close out the holiday season.

“It’s A Wonderful Life: The Musical.” Tim Nelson, Alexis Karol and Chris Caputo star in this musical retelling of the classic holiday tale of a man learning the value of a life. Playing through Dec. 23 at the Rose Center Theater, 14140 All American Way, Westminister, CA 92683. Ticketing information at rosecentertheater.com or (714) 793-1150, ext 1. Appropriate for all ages.

 

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