Heather Sconce remembers gathering around the television with her family when she was about six years old in Glendale, Ariz., to watch the 1946 classic Christmas film “It’s a Wonderful Life” starring James Stewart and Donna Reed.
“The movie is so special, because it is full of hope, love, and angels ... and I love angels,” Sconce said. “The entire Christmas season was spent watching all of our favorite Christmas movies, including ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.’ Christmas was, and still is, a very special time for my family.”
Now, about 30 years after seeing the movie for the first time, Sconce is thrilled to direct a 50-member cast in the musical adaptation of the film that follows George Bailey’s life from childhood to his midlife disappointments.
The production is coming to Sierra Pines Church in Oakhurst for six performances, with opening night scheduled for 7 p.m., this Friday, at Sierra Pines Church, 40855 Covey Court and Highway 49.
Sconce, assisted by Ken Marks, feels the adaptation breathes musical life into a familiar story, while retaining the warmth and humor of the original.
“It’s a holiday classic I encourage Mountain Area families to experience,” Sconce said. “It’s an amazing Christmas musical, an incredible set designed and built by Craig Friesen and Gary Talley, and an inspiring theme. This show is one you will not want to miss. I pray it brings hope to those during this time of year, especially with all that our town has been hit with over the last few months.”
Sconce is not only directing the production, but also playing the female lead of Mary (Hatch) Bailey.
“I’m inspired by the role, and it’s an honor to to be on the same stage with actors I have directed in past shows,” Sconce said.
Her past roles include Laurey Williams in “Oklahoma” and Jack’s mother in “Into the Woods.” She was also a cast member of Les Miserables in the summer of 2013 with Stageworks Fresno.
The lead role of George Bailey is played by Jordan Michel, who was offered the role after the original lead dropped out for personal reasons. He has been singing and acting most his life and has studied classical and jazz music, as well as musical theater at Cuesta College. His past roles include Claude from “Hair,”and Roger from “Rent.”
Michel describes Bailey as a hometown hero who constantly puts his dreams and wishes aside to better serve his community.
“He cares deeply for his small town and for the families who live there,” Michel said. “This seems to be a characteristic we need now in society more then ever.”
Michel feels blessed to have the opportunity to take on such a coveted role.
“Since my wife and I have had two wonderful boys, I have not had as much time lately to enjoy such an amazing outlet as being on stage,” Michel said. “This opportunity allows for me to enjoy a passion that I have recently put on the shelf, as well as the chance to provide the community with a some heartwarming entertainment during this holiday season.”
Michel calls the cast and crew of the show brilliant and a loving group of individuals.
“Heather Sconce has poured herself completely into this project as both a principal role and director, also recruiting her talented children to play the Bailey kids, as well as her brilliant husband, Matt, who has helped in numerous ways behind the scenes,” Michel said. “They are an amazingly talented, loving family and this community is greatly benefited by their presence.”
Sconce said it has been her privilege to be on stage with Michel.
Two of the Bailey children in the show are being played by Sconce’s own children, Makenzie, 6, and Kaden, 4.
Makenzie has been singing and performing on stage since she could walk, while Kaden will be making his stage debut.
“Getting to share the stage with my children is incredible,” Sconce said. “Makenzie is playing Zuzu Bailey and gets to deliver the iconic line from the movie, ‘Teacher says, every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings.’”
And to add to the family theme of the show, Heather’s father, Mike Tweedy, is playing the role of Clarence the angel who arrives to help save George Bailey.
“My daddy is crazy talented, and hearing him sing is one of my favorite sounds in the whole world,” Heather said. “He and my mother both shared their love for music, the Lord, and acting and it is a joy getting to spend more time with my daddy on stage.”
Michel remembers watching the movie with friends and family, usually with a cup of hot coco and a heartwarming fire.
“These memories left a lasting glow in my heart and mind, and I can only hope that our audience will take away that same feeling from their experience,” Michel said.