Posts Tagged ‘A Wonderful Life’

LIVE: “A Wonderful Life” @ Cohoes Music Hall [Berkshire on Stage]

Thursday, December 15th, 2011
(l) John Noble as Potter and(r) Brad Heikes as George Bailey.

(l) John Noble as Potter and(r) Brad Heikes as George Bailey.

Of all the classic Christmas stories, Frank Capra’s A Wonderful Life is the holiday touchstone that best conflates holiday nostalgia with authentic real life situations. The Nutcracker is a bit too sugary, A Christmas Carol typically Victorian, Santaland Diaries is somewhat world weary and sarcastic, but A Wonderful Life hits the Christmas sweet spot perfectly. It has good guys and bad guys, suspense and a happy ending.

Playing at the Cohoes, (NY) Music Hall through December 18, it is the must-see musical of the Christmas season, perfect for families who like celebrating the holiday together. It may deal with grownup themes, but the younger children in the audience were mesmerized by the rapidly changing scenes which were almost cinematic, and the recognizable characters and lively music. For some of the youngsters, it was the first time they saw the Charleston performed live on stage, what fun!

But let’s back up for a moment, for this is a musical with an interesting history.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

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LIVE: “A Wonderful Life” @ Cohoes Music Hall [GailSez]

Thursday, December 15th, 2011
George Bailey (Brad Heikes) surrounded by his adoring family (L to R) Tommy (Aidan Fecko), Zuzu (Belle Babcock), wife Mary (Caroline Galvez), and Beth (Chezmin Sheehan). (Photo: Theresa M. Thibodeau)

George Bailey (Brad Heikes) surrounded by his adoring family (L to R) Tommy (Aidan Fecko), Zuzu (Belle Babcock), wife Mary (Caroline Galvez), and Beth (Chezmin Sheehan). (Photo: Theresa M. Thibodeau)

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.

Click to read the rest at GailSez.

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