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Review: ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ steals the stage

How many times have you seen Frank Capra’s film “It’s a Wonderful Life?” Though most of us need extra hands to come up with that number, we would still be anxiously awaiting the next showing come Christmas time each year.

Now, tell the truth here. How many of you have seen the stage version of that same movie? Anyone? No? Well here is your chance.

Of course, I don’t have to tell you a story that you have heard dozens of times already. But what I can do is give you an invitation to come see George, Mary, their families, friends and neighbors as you’ve never seen them before — live, on stage at the historic Haven Theater in downtown Brookhaven.

Director James Minter Jr. has put together a cast of winners for the first play of Brookhaven Little Theatre’s 2015-2016 Season. Using a good mix of new and old faces from BLT’s past and present, he has created an outstanding cast that works extremely well together. Each member has his own unique place in the cast and each fulfills the requirements of his role extremely well.

For example, as George, Rich Balkcom is outstanding.  He simply “is” George Bailey. Clarence, George’s guardian angel, will spend most of the play showing just how George has touched the lives of those he loves in Bedford Falls. But George is also shown by Clarence just what would happen to the town if there had never been a George Bailey.

Mary Bailey, played by Reagan Whittington, spends her time raising the Baileys’ four children and being the devoted wife and mother.  Whittington lights up the stage with her portrayal of Mary.

Clarence the guardian angel, very well-played by Gary Hurst, is sent down from heaven when George utters the words “it would have been better if I had never been born.” He shows George just what would happen to the people as well as the town if George had never been around to give them the opportunities that Bailey’s Building and Loan had given them over the span of George’s life.

We all know the villain of the story, Mr. Potter. He shows up in this version of the story, too, just as mean and hateful as he is in the film version. His plans to take over the town and become the slumlord to end all slumlords have been continually thwarted by the Bailey family for years. Matt Coleman plays the wheelchair-bound nasty guy who runs the only other banking institution in town.

The supporting cast of over two dozen local actors does an outstanding job of helping bring “It’s a Wonderful Life,” to life on the BLT stage. Each one deserves a huge pat on the back for putting such great effort into making his character exactly what was needed to make the production the success that it is. They include Sid Ramsey (Mr. Gower), Stone Spann and Jonah Clark (Young George), Daniel Clark (Harry Bailey), Jeanene Smith (Mother Bailey), Sue Junkin (Aunt Tilly), Wendi Case (Violet Peterson), Larry Baker (Bert), Ken Whittington (Ernie), Trey Waterloo (Uncle Billy), James Evans (Potter’s bodyguard), Lisa Jackson (Potter’s Secretary) Susan Dunaway (Mrs. Hatch and Mrs. Martini), Courtney Johnson (Miss Andrews) Ary Mize ( Mrs. Thompson), Arly Mize (Sadie Thompson), Doug Hoy (Mr. Martini), Lee Moore (Miss Carter ), Conner Cagle (Jack Armstrong), Will Adams and Braxton King (Pete Bailey) , Corey Case and Jacob Rutland (Tommy Bailey), Olivia Case and Lela Beth Waterloo (Zuzu Bailey), Troy Douglas (Mr. Welch) and Aubree Douglas and Evelyn Waterloo (Janie Bailey).

Don’t miss this opportunity to see the finest acting in the region. The play will continue with the 2 p.m. matinee today, and again at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday and a final matinee at 2 p.m. on Dec. 13, 2015. Tickets are available at the door. Don’t delay.