Three stars, one small theater: Williamston scores again
By Michael H. Margolin
Originally printed 12/1/2011 (Issue 1948 - Between The Lines News)
"This Wonderful Life", a revival of Williamston Theatre's 2009 production, is propelled into captivating theater by three men: actor John Lepard, director Tony Caselli and playwright Steve Murray. Although some credit, I suppose, must go to Frank Capra who directed the film upon which it is based, "It's a Wonderful Life", and the team of Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett who wrote the screenplay.
For the very few of you who have been out of the popular culture loop, the film has become a Christmas staple, beloved by many and replayed endlessly in homes across the country about this time of year. It is maudlin, sappy, enchanting and so sweet that your teeth may ache just from seeing it. But it is beloved. (And for the record, scored five Academy Award nominations in 1946, no wins, but shows up on the American Film Institute's list of the 100 best films.) It concerns a man named George Bailey whom life has shortchanged and considers suicide until he is shown how much good he has done in his little town of Bedford Falls, despite the criticisms of the Scrooge-like Mr. Potter who owns the town's bank.
Steve Murray made the play into an hour and fifteen minute stage work for one actor. One actor who performs some 30 roles, ranging from an elderly curmudgeon to a young, virginal woman and a couple of children and mothers, a dotty uncle and a black maid. The author, who knows the work well, does not settle for sentiment; instead he imbues the work with tongue-in-cheek humor and some marvelous hyperbole, while still preserving the integrity of the story.
In this production, Tony Caselli directs John Lepard on a set that consists of one rolling table, one stool, a stairway and some projections on the rear scrim. Not much to work with, so Caselli wisely gives his actor as much lead as possible, using every inch of the stage. You can tell this is a blessed partnership: The actor trusts his director and vice versa.
Then, of course, there is John Lepard. Yes, he "plays" some 30 characters and gives a more than passable impression of several of the originals such as James Stewart as George Bailey whose life is put up for rescue on Christmas Eve, and the venerable Lionel Barrymore as the venomous villain, Mr. Potter.
But from the start, the tall, good looking Lepard, who has always been a graceful, articulate actor, does something absolutely essential if the work is going to succeed: He puts the audience in his pocket, gains our trust and allows us to work with him in creating a theatrical partnership. Charm is in evidence, but it is more than that: It is the essence of live theater that no reality show can duplicate.
More plaudits to scenic designer Bartley H. Bauer, Reid G. Johnson's good lighting design and Quintessa Gallinat's sound design - a ringing telephone can change the course of history.
If there is one small quibble, it is that in the film, and subsequently in this retelling, the villain goes unpunished. Before the age of irony in the arts, it was a cardinal rule that villainy had to be punished before the final curtain. Somehow I wish that playwright Murray had found a way to punish the miserable Mr. Potter.
'This Wonderful Life'
Williamston Theatre, 122 S. Putnam St., Williamston. Thursday-Sunday through Dec. 23, plus Dec. 20-21. $20-$25. 517-655-7469. http://www.williamstontheatre.org
- Michigan Theater Presents New Wine & Film Series
- Things Get Hairy In East Lansing
- Prize-Winning Musical Packs Emotional Punch
- Performance Network To Host Ann Arbor Film Festival For Two Nights
- Ann Arbor Theater Performs Classic Children's Tale
- Make A Move With East Lansing's 'Chess - A Staged Concert'
- Coffee Shop
- Cafe Verde - People's Food Coop
- Esquire Interiors
- Legal Organizations
- Stonewall Bar Association
- Professional Organizations
- GM PLUS - General Motors LGBT Employee Resource Group
- Ford GLOBE
- Religious & Spiritual
- Temple Israel of Detroit
- Tito's Handmade Vodka
- IGBO (International Gay Bowling Organization)
- Wedding / Event Planner
- With A Little Help
Enter contests to win great prizes like CDs, DVDs, concert tickets and more
- Anti-Gay Company Has Lapsed Michigan Mechanic's License
- Q&A: Reba Talks 'Very Important' LGBT Rights, Her First Gay Wedding & Feeling 'Sad' For Closeted Country Stars
- Q&A: Scott Eastwood Endorses Father's Gay Marriage Mantra, Talks Sex Scenes ('I Was Turned On') & Mel Gibson's Advice
- Is GoFundMe The New Welfare For Anti-Gay Corporations?
- Josh Groban Q&A: His Queer Bear Fans, Failing The Ryan Gosling 'Gay Test' & Why He Worships RuPaul
Sign up to receive our weekly newsletters today!
A study published in the journal The Lancet HIV reports that there is a significant disparity in HIV prevalence between black and white men who have sex with men. The study was published on Nov. 18 and found a startling 32 percent prevalence rate for black men who have sex with men, compared with only eight percent for white men who have sex with men.View More World AIDS Day
This Week's Issue
Download or view this week's print issue today!
Sign up to receive our weekly newsletters today!