I first saw this 1986 Sheldon Harnick/Joe Raposo musical adaptation of Frank Capra’s iconic 1946 film It’s a Wonderful Life in 2006 at NYSTI, and I found it worrisome, as I prepared to see it again at Cohoes, that I had no musical memory of the show except for the lively Charleston number in the first act, which is completely peripheral to the plot.
In the intervening five years I have STILL not managed to watch the film all the way through, so I cannot tell you how this production stacks up to the original in terms of faithfully recreating the look of key scenes. The only one that I am really familiar with is Zuzu at the Christmas tree, and that didn’t look right at all from where I was sitting. But the audience went crazy for adorable Belle Babcock as she proclaimed “Look, Daddy. Teacher says, every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings” and cheered as Clarence (Kelly Briggs) proudly displayed his new pair of pinions.
Only trouble was it took two hours and twenty-five minutes to get to those warm and fuzzy moments – and all that while the story of the continually frustrated and embittered George Bailey was constantly interrupted, bogged down, and side-tracked by a bunch of boring music. There was no music in the film, so there are no familiar tunes that everyone is dying to hear, and sadly Raposo – who penned some of the most memorable music of the late 20th century – failed to come up with any winners here. How could the man who wrote the opening themes for Sesame Street and Three’s Company and such classics as Bein’ Green and C is for Cookie come up a cropper? Possibly because the oh-so-nice people of Bedford Falls, NY, are not nearly as interesting as the Muppets.