The Norman Transcript

December 13, 2013

Sooner Theatre takes on silver screen classic

by Hannah Cruz
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — The silver screen comes to life this holiday season during the Sooner Theatre’s production of “A Wonderful Life.”

A musical adaptation of the Frank Capra classic film “It’s A Wonderful Life,” the story follows the life of George Bailey as he attempts to reconcile unrealized dreams with the burdensome responsibilities of reality.

The tale takes the audience on a tour of Bailey’s life, exploring what could have been had he never existed. Though he long dreams of seeing the world, his hopes are interrupted when he is thrust into saving the town of Bedford Falls from the greedy financier Henry Potter. As Bailey’s world unravels, an apprentice angel, Clarence, is sent to answer the community’s prayers for George’s well-being.

Bryan Partridge, playing Bailey, said his character explores a gamut of emotions during the production.

“To the audience his life is pretty good and he ends up getting married, has a family and kids, but nothing goes the way that he sees it so he’s constantly beating himself down with, ‘This world is terrible,’” Partridge said. “...He gets redemption at the end and in a sense has this salvation and brand new look on life — it is a wonderful life, even though he hasn’t seen it that way.”

Like Bailey, Partridge said a recent epiphany also changed his lives direction. While persuing acting in New York City, Partridge said he received the call to ministry. He now works full time as a youth minister at NorthHaven Church. Partridge said he has drawn parallels between his ministry and his character’s development, such as the importance of growth, redemption and gratitude.

Partridge said he hopes the audience is able to relate to Bailey’s transformation as much as he does.

Michael Gibbons, playing Potter, agreed.

“It can be frustrating and bleak and bad, but at the end of the day we’re blessed. We should embrace that and be happy about it and enjoy that because most of the play George is a very unhappy guy,” Gibbons said.

“He doesn’t enjoy his family, his kids, he doesn’t have the job he wants, he’s not traveling — he walks into the marriage and it’s a positive thing but when the kids come along and the job, he’s just not happy about anything.”

While many watch the movie annually, Gibbons said the live performance offers a new take on an old favorite. The book and lyrics for the musical adaptation were written by Sheldon Harnick and the music was written by Joe Raposo.

“There’s something about live theater,” he said. “It’s three dimensional, it’s right there. It’s a different twist on the story.”

The live performance still maintains many of the signature moments from the movie, Partridge said.

Director Lisa Fox said the production, performed by approximately 30 cast members ranging in age from 7 to 70, has something for everyone in the family.

“I just hope they go away feeling that everyone’s life is important, which is basically what George wants,” Fox said on what she hopes the audience gains from the production. “He just thinks he’s a failure, and it doesn’t matter about status or power it’s how you touch someone else’s life. I think that’s a great message. And just to have an enjoyable evening enjoying the arts.”

Sidebar:

“A Wonderful Life” runs 7:30 p.m. Dec. 13 and 14 and 2 p.m. Dec. 15. at the Sooner Theatre, 101 E. Main St.

Tickets are $25 and $20. Discounts are available for seniors 65 and older, children ages 12 and under, and groups of 10 or more. Tickets can be purchased online at soonertheatre.com, by phone at 405-321-9600 or in person at the theatre box office, 10 a.m. to noon and 2-5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, as well as one hour prior to show time.

More information about these and other Sooner Theatre programs is available at soonertheatre.com or by calling 405-321-9600.

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