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Rita Kohn
Performance Reviews
Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre
United States
Indianapolis, IN

It's A Wonderful Life

by Rita Kohn
October 23, 2011
Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre
9301 N. Michigan Road
Indianapolis, IN 46268
4 ½ stars

A shorter version of this review was originally published in NUVO Newsweekly, Indianapolis, IN.

Rita Kohn is a member of the Board of the Dance Critics Association.
It's a wonderful production in every respect. Beef & Boards has produced a winning combination of adhering to the original film while allowing the actors to be alive on their own terms. Douglas Stark's stage adaptation of Frank Capra's 1946 comedy/drama, which was based on Philip Van Doren Stern's short story "The Greatest Gift," is both witty and full of pathos. Composer Michael Hoagland folds the original film score into new music for a play with music, rather than creating a musical. By placing emphasis on the spoken word this stage production gives the actors a lot to work with for multi-dimensional characters. The poignancy, however, is in the timeliness of the story starting in the post World War I era when Savings & Loan institutions gained popularity as a way for ordinary people to finance a home or a small business and to build modest savings. Throughout the play we experience the impact of the benevolent principles of Pop Bailey versus the harsh attitude of Mr. Potter, who makes Scrooge look like Santa Claus. George Bailey not only "inherits" his father's principles, he finds himself living them in opposition to Potter's machinations to squeeze the little guys out of business. Navigating through the Depression and World War II, a crisis of human error finally pushes George to the "end of his rope." It's a morality tale and an inspirational saga laced with reality where Potter never changes nor gets his due for unscrupulous actions. But George learns why his life is significant and that transfers to the other characters and to us in the seats. It's not about punishing the bad guys: it's about being a caring, responsible human being. The character of Mary Hatch Bailey is pivotal to who George becomes. The entire cast is superb, the musicians and designers are on the mark. The dance interlude at the high school prom are full out show numbers choreographed by Deb Wims. Directed by Douglas E. Stark, musical director is Kristy Templet. This don't miss production runs through Nov. 20. Tickets: 317-872-9664.
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