AISLE SAY San Francisco


Adapted by Joe Landry
Directed by Randall King
Presented by San Jose Stage Company
The Stage
490 S. First St., San Jose, CA / (408) 283-7142

Reviewed by Judy Richter

Many households across the country enjoy the holiday tradition of watching reruns of Frank Capra's 1946 film, "It's a Wonderful Life," starring Jimmy Stewart.

The story of how one good, principled man can make a difference in many lives never fails to touch the heart. The same is true of Joe Landry's stage adaptation, subtitled "A Live Radio Play" and presented by San Jose Stage Company.

Closely following the film, this stage version takes place on Christmas Eve in the studios of WBFR in New York City. Six actors play all of the characters and provide the sound effects.

The versatile Kevin Blackton and Allison F. Rich, who also played piano, along with Martin Rojas Dietrich play varied characters while Judith Miller mostly provides sound effects, aided by her colleagues. Will Springhorn Jr. plays the central character, George Bailey, while Halsey Varady plays his wife, Mary.

In the familiar story, George is on the verge of suicide after a major crisis involving his building and loan association in the fictional Bedford Falls, N.Y. In the meantime, an angel, Clarence (Dietrich), has been filled in on George's life and has been dispatched to Earth to save him.

He does so by showing George what things would have been like if he had never been born. Having fallen into the clutches of the rich but heartless Mr. Potter (Dietrich again), the town and its people were in bad shape.

Stephen Hilliard's costumes evoke the 1940s, complete with smart dresses and seamed stockings for Varady and Rich. The studio set and lighting design are by Michael Palumbo with sound by John Koss.

As directed by Randall King, this ensemble cast brings out the heartwarming poignancy of this familiar story. It's a great way to begin to celebrate the season.

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