“It’s a wonderful Life - The Musical,” opened Dec. 5 at the Sierra Pines Church, and when the first of six shows ended two and a half hours later, the 50-member cast received an enthusiastic standing ovation. And for good reason. The production, directed by Heather Sconce, with assistance from Ken Marks, featured one of the finest stage ensembles to ever grace a stage in the Mountain Area.
A musical adaptation of Frank Capra’s 1946 beloved Christmas film “It’s A Wonderful Life,” starring James Stewart and Donna Reed, the endearing story follows the life of George Bailey in Bedford Falls, New York. A life of childhood dreams, young love, family, and midlife disappointments. George dreams of engineering skyscrapers, mile-long bridges, and traveling the world, but settles for far less when he takes over the family building and loan business after his father’s (Bill Marrone) untimely passing.
Mike Tweedy plays the loveable and humorous Clarence, the angel second-class who is working for his wings. Clarence is sent to Bedford on Christmas eve, to remind a despondent George what the world would be like without him. It’s the story about people supporting one another in a small community - a good reminder for us all.
The lead roles of George and Mary Bailey are played by the talented Jordan Michel and Sconce. The chemistry between the two was heartfelt. Sconce is charming, warm and passionate in her stage role of wife and mother. She also has a beautiful voice she exhibits when she sings “My George Bailey,” and “My Future.”
Michel beings plenty of exuberance and a good amount of wit to the stage. He handles a large amount of dialog with near perfection, and he holds his own with his solo performance of “My Life.”
And then there are the little ones. The Sconce children (Makenzie, 6, and Kaden, 4) play the Bailey children in the show along with Evan Lebovitz and Elisa Heidebrecht. Considering their age and short list of credits, they all did a remarkable job.
Usually in most stage productions, a handful of actor-singers stand out from the rest - but in this production, there is not a weak-link to be found. The casting successfully blended the young, and the older, more experienced performers into a close stage family that could be felt by the audience.
When Diane Speer and former Oakhurst pastor Paul DePledge sang “Bless You George Bailey,” It was one of those “American Idol” moments when a singer opens their mouth, and you turn wide-eyed to the person next to you in shock and disbelief that such a powerful voice came out of that person.
Other strong performances were given by Pam McDonald (Mother Bailey), Lee Hulbert (Henry Potter), Bob Heidebrecht (Uncle Billy), Jennifer Varner (Cousin Tilly), Mackenzie Collins (Sam Wainwright), Jacquie McCourt (Violet Bick), Noah Allen (Harry Bailey), and Mark Robinson (Mr. Gower).
The dialog and singing was crisp and clear thanks to state of the art microphones worn by the actors. The cast is so strong, only simple props and sets, along with period wardrobe by Patty Marks, were necessary to take the audience back through time to the 20s, 30s, and 40s. The video projection that filled the set with simulated falling snow was a nice touch. Sarah Ausley served admirably as music director as the show features 23 songs.
I’m no entertainment critic - but I know when something is good - And this show is way beyond good.
Give yourself a Christmas present this year by attending “It’s A Wonderful life - The Musical.” It’s a great way to celebrate the holidays with family and friends. The last three performances, expected to sell out, are Friday and Saturday (Dec. 12 & 13) at 7 p.m., and Sunday (Dec. 14) at 2 p.m. Tickets are available at itsawonderfullifetickets.com.