NORMAN — Deep down, we all knew Henry Potter wouldn’t have a change of heart and return the $8,000 cash deposit that forgetful Uncle Billy mistakenly left on the bank counter.
But in the backs of our minds, maybe, just maybe, the Sooner Theatre would go off script, change the plot of “A Wonderful Life” and surprise the audience. Make us go away thinking that all was well in Bedford Falls and that all evil people can actually change their stripes.
No chance. Director Lisa Fox’s cast stuck to the script adapted from Frank Capra’s film “It’s a Wonderful Life” and didn’t disappoint the audiences this past weekend. The show plays again Friday, Saturday and Sunday and again Dec. 13-15.
It follows last year’s Sooner production of “White Christmas.” Sooner Theatre Executive Director Jennifer Heavner-Baker said the requested show came together, despite some weather-related rehearsal cancellations.
The community cast is a delightful mix of recognizable Sooner veterans who leave their families and day jobs behind for a few weeks for time on the stage and some local theater students and recent graduates.
It’s a heart-warming, nostalgic show, quite different from “The Full Monty” and “Urinetown,” which the Sooner staged earlier this year. Full redemption will come in March with “Jesus Christ Superstar.”
George Bailey, played skillfully by Baylor graduate and local student minister Bryan Partridge, watches as his dreams of traveling the world, going to Cornell and designing big buildings are lost while he works to save the Bailey Building and Loan in the midst of the Great Depression.
He agrees to stay and keep the company solvent while his brother dances, goes to school with his tuition money and marries an out-of-towner.
Even George’s own honeymoon with Mary, played by Edmond school teacher Laura Bartlett, is cut short by a run on the local bank. She makes the best of it with beautiful songs that elevate her role throughout the show.
Potter (Michael Gibbons) sees an opportunity to take over the building and loan after the death of Tom Bailey (James Tyra). George Bailey clings to his father’s vision of helping working people own their own homes and rejects Potter’s cash.
But taking the high road has its perils. George’s life is spiraling out of control. He realizes the truth of Potter’s remark that, “George, you’re worth more dead than alive.”
Enter apprentice angel, Clarence, played by Jon-Philip Olson. He’s working to earn his wings and devises a plan to show George how different Bedford Falls would have been without him ever being born.
No growing up for war hero brother Harry Bailey (Evan Robinson), no marriage to Mary Hatch and no little Beth, Tommy and Zuzu Baileys (alternately played by Rachael Jewell, Gianna Hoffman, George Schroeder, Jack Jungman, Sutton Willis and Harper Orr).
Without George ever living, Uncle Billy (James Briggs) would become the town inebriate who drank the savings and loan into insolvency. The town itself is renamed in honor of Potter, the greedy financier who even drew some joking “boos” from the audience at curtain call.
The book and lyrics for the musical adaptation were written by Sheldon Harnick, and the music was written by Joe Raposo. Keith Adams directed the music for the show.
Others in the cast include Bryan Partridge, Jackson Ewing, Evan Robison, Grace Anne Marcum, Cindy Hanska, James Tyra, Conor Austin, Ryan Blagg, Marles Bradley, John Cargal, Leslie Hindman, David Hopper, Katherine McLaughlin, Devon Moseley, Jake Musgrove, Miranda Owens, Shane Pruitt, Craig Rice, Tate Robison, George Schroeder, Paula Sullivan, Jon R. Vittitow, Heidi Sue Wallace, Jay Winfrey and Biz Young.
Tickets to “A Wonderful Life” are $25 and $20. Discounts are available for seniors 65 and older, children age 12 and under, and groups of 10 or more.
Tickets can be purchased online at soonertheatre.com, by phone at 321-9600 or in person at the theatre box office from 10 a.m. to noon and 2 to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, as well as one hour prior to showtime.
More information is available at the website soonertheatre.com.
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