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New take on classic tale falls short in Capital Rep’s adaptation

New take on classic tale falls short in Capital Rep’s adaptation

As told at Capital Rep, “This Wonderful Life” attempts to capture the warm and fuzzy truth of that p

“This Wonderful Life,” being presented by Capital Repertory Theatre, is a re-telling of the Christmas favorite “It’s a Wonderful Life,” a movie seen yearly on TV. If you haven’t seen the film, Cap Rep’s offering may be worth your time. If you have seen it, well . . .

The story is a worthwhile exploration of a man’s life — a noble life to be sure. George Bailey, the hero, has made a difference. Through his sacrifices he has saved his younger brother’s life, the life of another child, the reputation of the local pharmacist, his father’s business and, in fact, the entire town of Bedford Falls.

On Christmas Eve, George comes to a crashing halt when he realizes that, through his Uncle Billy’s carelessness, he may lose the business he has fought so hard to keep alive and he may go to jail. He stands at a metaphorical crossroads at the edge of a bridge, wishing he were never born and planning to jump.

‘This Wonderful Life’

WHAT: Capital Repertory Theatre, 111 N. Pearl St.

WHEN: Through Dec. 22

HOW MUCH: $60-$16

MORE INFO: 445-7469, www.capitalrep.org

Watchful angel

What George doesn’t know is that an angel, Clarence by name, has arrived on Earth to watch over him. Clarence, who hopes to earn his wings by helping George, dives into the churning winter water and George saves his life.

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For Gazette theater writer Bill Buell's preview of this show, click here.

In their conversation after the heroic rescue, Clarence decides to show George what would have happened if he’d never been born. Needless to say, redemption comes in the form of a litany of dire outcomes. If George had not been born, his brother would have died, the pharmacist would have gone to jail for poisoning a child, George’s wife, Mary, would have been “an old maid” and, of course, the evil Mr. Potter would own the town. There would be night clubs and gambling joints all over the place. George learns the redemptive message that we all count.

This is beautiful Christmastime fare and it is a story to which we can all relate. If our own lives are less than heroic, we have something, certainly, that makes us special and valuable.

As told at Capital Rep, the story attempts to capture the warm and fuzzy truth of that parable.

It does not succeed.

Defeated by text

Though the message is intact, the film’s humanity is absent. George’s story is dramatized by a single actor (Larry Daggett) who plays all the roles. He does a darned good James Stewart, who starred in the film, but his Clarence is silly, his Mary annoying and his Mr. Potter merely grim. Make no mistake, Daggett is a competent actor but the text defeats him.

The first five minutes of the show are entertaining and most promising. After that, the production becomes old — very old — and Daggett is forced to overplay many of the characters just to keep the audience engaged.

While there were chuckles throughout, there were no true expressions of appreciation and an actor who should have received a standing “O” for his efforts and energy got a polite round of applause — and only one curtain call. It was heartbreaking.

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