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It's a 'Wonderful' play from YCT
Curtain rises Friday at Gila Ridge
WHAT: “It's a Wonderful Life” by Yuma Community Theater
WHEN: Friday and Dec. 1 at 7 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m.; Dec. 7 and 8 at 7 p.m.; Dec. 8 and 9 at 2 p.m.
WHERE: Gila Ridge High School Performing Arts Center, 7150 E. 24th St.
COST: Individual show tickets are $5, $10 or $20 depending on seating preference. Purchase tickets at Fretworks, Arizona Battery or at the door.
ETC.: There will be open captioning at this Sunday's matinee and Dec. 8 evening performance for the hard-of-hearing.
Every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings.
If you know where that line comes from, you probably know the story of “It's a Wonderful Life,” the Christmas classic made famous in a 1946 film starring Jimmy Stewart and being honored this season with a production by Yuma Community Theater.
The play will be staged at the Gila Ridge High School theater for two weekends beginning Friday.
The enduring, life-affirming tale of a man pulled back from the brink by a guardian angel who shows him how bleak the town of Bedford Falls would be if he'd never been born hits the same right notes today as it did in the old Hollywood days of Stewart.
“It's very relevant for today's economy, just because it's about the struggles of a small town,” said director Joanne Kidd. “It's about struggling to make it in a tough economy. It's about everybody pulling together and supporting your friends.
“It's a theme that never gets old.”
The story was a movie before it was adapted for the stage, so the live version closely follows the screen production, a plunge into a swimming pool aside. Selfless and noble George Bailey (played here by Chris Franey in the role immortalized by Stewart) is shown as a man of character even as a boy, although the life of adventure and discovery he seeks outside his small hometown of Bedford Falls takes a back seat to civic and family duty.
He stays home to run the Bailey Building and Loan with his Uncle Billy (Gary Gleason, reprising his role when YCT staged the play in 2008) and raise a family with the love of his life, Mary (Mary Plante).
Villainous slumlord Henry Potter (Mike Ivers) has always wanted Bailey out of his way, trying unsuccessfully over the years to thwart the workingman-friendly Building and Loan. The cold-hearted old man takes advantage of a lapse in attention by absent-minded Uncle Billy, keeping Building and Loan cash he was going to deposit when he accidentally hands it over with a newspaper on Christmas Eve.
This leaves the Bailey business in grave danger with a bank examiner due that day. Bailey asks Potter for a loan and is harshly denied, sending him into a tailspin of despair that leads him to contemplate taking his life. That's when Guardian Angel Second Class Clarence Odbody (Mike Finch), trying to earn his wings, steps in to show Bailey to not give up on what's truly been a wonderful life.
The 23-member cast of actors from ages 7 to 79 has been rehearsing since just after Labor Day. One of those players, or rather several, will be a special treat: The silent role of Potter's wheelchair-pushing “Goon” will rotate among five guests who should be familiar to Yumans — it's not a comic role but one that should still delight the local audience, Kidd said. Community pillar and state Rep. Lynne Pancrazi will be one of the “Goons,” scooting the chair in the final four shows.