It’s a Wonderful Life onstage

(Naotake Murayama)

(Naotake Murayama)

Ask people what’s their favorite Christmas movie, and an awful lot of them will cite the Frank Capra classic It’s a Wonderful Life. Some make a ritual of watching it every December. There’s something about this tale of a man lifted from despair by the revelation of how profoundly his choices have benefited the lives of others in his community that resonates with us deep at the core – especially during this darkest stretch of the year.

So it probably shouldn’t surprise us that more local theatrical troupes are jumping on the bandwagon of putting on stage productions of It’s a Wonderful Life. In fact, there are three to choose from around here during the next few weeks. You could even choose to see them all, if you’re a true believer in George Bailey and his guardian angel Clarence.

Ann Citron’s little stage company at the Rosendale Theatre started the local trend last year, and will be reprising its production of the beloved story next Friday and Saturday, December 12 and 13 at 8 p.m. – the second show coinciding with the town’s annual Frozendale street festival. It’s cunningly staged in the format of a 1940s live radio show, with five actors – Claudia Brown, Kimberly Kay, Gilles Malkine, Brian Mathews and Doug Motel – playing 50 roles. There are interruptions for commercial breaks appropriate to the period, with jingles sung in the style of the Andrews Sisters. For the visual benefit of the audience, the cast is dressed in vintage 1940s clothing, and watching one actor jump from one side of the microphone to the other in order to have a conversation with himself in two different stage voices is truly something to behold. Charlie Kniceley and company provide the swinging musical accompaniment, Fre Atlast the hilarious sound effects; Citron directs.

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Tickets to It’s a Wonderful Life at the Rosendale Theatre, located at 408 Main Street in Rosendale, cost $15 general admission, $10 for children age 12 and under, and can be purchased online at https://rosendaletheatre.org. For more information, e-mail info@rosendaletheatre.org or call (845) 658-8989.

The radio play format is also the choice for Half Moon Theatre (HMT)’s production of It’s a Wonderful Life, which debuts this Friday and runs weekends through December 20 in the new theater in the Marriott Pavilion at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park. Michael Schiralli directs, and the cast includes some talented HMT regulars: Jason Cohen, Darrell James, Molly Renfroe Katz, Amy Lemon Olson and John Summerford. Drama Desk Award nominee Ien DeNio is responsible for the live sound effects, some of which are rumored to require audience interactivity.

Performances of It’s a Wonderful Life at the CIA will begin at 8 p.m. on Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. on Saturdays and 2 p.m. on Sundays. A special performance at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, December 17 will be preceded by a 7 p.m. talk by Eddie Kowalski, CIA graduate, chef/owner of Crave and Lola’s Café, about his favorite holiday recipes. Ien DeNio will present a pre-show “Sound Effects Show & Tell” at 7 p.m. on Friday, December 12 and at 1:15 p.m. on Saturday, December 20. And on Sunday, December 7 at 1 p.m., film scholar Sybil DelGaudio will give a pre-show talk about the classic film that inspired the play.

Taking full advantage of the amenities accessible at its brand-new home, HMT has arranged with the CIA to offer a special dinner option for theater patrons on two Saturday nights during the show’s run, December 6 and 13: A family-style meal with a selection of salads, homemade pastas and dessert will be available between 5 and 6:15 p.m., by reservation only, at the on-site restaurant Caterina de’ Medici at a cost of $39 per person. That’s in addition to the tickets to the play, which cost $35 to $45.
To purchase tickets to Half Moon Theatre’s It’s a Wonderful Life: The 1946 Radio Play, call (800) 838-3006 or order online at www.halfmoontheatre.org. To book a table for the dinner-and-show combo, call (845) 451-1553 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, or e-mail r_owens@culinary.edu.

Want to see a live production of It’s a Wonderful Life that more closely approximates what you see on the silver screen? Then your best choice is the stage adaptation that will open this Friday, December 5 and run weekends through December 21 at the Center for Performing Arts at Rhinebeck, courtesy of Up in One Productions. The large cast – many of them Up in One regulars – includes Michael Frohnhoefer as George, Lou Trapani as Mr. Potter, Fred Fishberg as Clarence, Jessica Truin as Mary, Amos Newcombe as Uncle Billy, Tracey Coffey as Mrs. Bailey, Ethan Martin as Young George, Peter Pius as Mr. Gower, Cheyenne See as Violet and Lisa Lynds as Aunt Tilly. Diana di Grandi directs, with set and lighting design by Andrew Weintraub, scenic art by Hannah Manner and period costumes by Kim-Denise Barnett.

Performances of It’s a Wonderful Life at the Center for Performing Arts at Rhinebeck, located at 661 Route 308 in Rhinebeck, begin at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, with 3 p.m. matinées on all three Sundays plus one Saturday, December 20. Tickets cost $24 for adults, $22 for seniors and children under age 12, and can be ordered by calling (845) 876-3080 or visiting www.centerforperformingarts.org.

 

It’s a Wonderful Life, Saturday/Sunday, December 12/13, 8 p.m., $15/$10, Rosendale Theatre, 408 Main Street (Route 213), Rosendale; (845) 658-8989, https://rosendaletheatre.org.

It’s a Wonderful Life, Half Moon Theatre, Wednesday, December 17, 8 p.m., Friday, December 5, 12 & 19, 8 p.m., Saturday, December 6, 13 & 20, 2 & 8 p.m., Sunday, December 7 & 14, 8 p.m., $45/$35, Culinary Institute of America, 1946 Campus Drive (Route 9), Hyde Park; (800) 838-3006, www.halfmoontheatre.org (show); (845) 451-1553, r_owens@culinary.edu (dinner).

It’s a Wonderful Life, Up in One Productions, Friday/Saturday, December 5/6, 12/13, 19/20, 8 p.m., Saturday, December 20, Sunday, December 7, 14 & 21, 3 p.m., $24/$22, Center for Performing Arts at Rhinebeck, 661 Route 308, Rhinebeck; (845) 876-3080, www.centerforperformingarts.org.