Review: It’s a Wonderful Life

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Studio Tenn's production of "It's a Wonderful Life" brings holiday sentimentality to the stage, Dec. 4 - 21.

Studio Tenn presents:
It’s a Wonderful Life (Dec. 4 – 21; All ages)
Jamison Hall at The Factory
230 Franklin Road, Franklin
888-664-6362 • studiotenn.com
Show times: Thu – Fri 7 p.m., Sat 2 and 7 p.m., Sun 2 p.m.
Tickets: $47.50 – $57.50

 … a warm and entertaining family show

Studio Tenn celebrates the holiday season by offering a warm and entertaining family show with its production of It’s a Wonderful Life. The play is based on Frank Capra’s beloved movie from 1946 (the movie itself is based on Philip Van Doren Stern’s short story, “The Greatest Gift,” published in 1945). Capra’s movie, starring James Stewart and Donna Reed, is one of the most loved films in American cinema, and it’s long been a staple among families during the Christmas season.

James W. Rodgers’ stage adaptation closely follows the plot line of the movie, and Studio Tenn’s stellar presentation is a bona fide theatrical treat featuring a well-rounded cast of local favorites.

Brent Maddox’s performance of the main role, simple and honest George Bailey, is spot on as a man who’s given up his dreams in order to help others. Maddox wonderfully embodies Bailey’s charming innocence, and through flashback scenes, he shows how a genuinely good guy can emotionally crumble to the brink of suicide when life turns against him.

While all of the cast members are integral to the plot and all do remarkable work (including local stage veterans Nan Gurley as Mother Bailey and Denice Hicks as Aunt Tilly), particular nods go to Shannon Hoppe as the sweet, lovestruck Mary Hatch along with Derek Whittaker’s perfect portrayal of George’s drunken Uncle Billy. In addition, Chip Arnold proves his absolute versatility as a seasoned actor in his performance of the despicable Henry Potter. Arnold is well known in Nashville’s theater community for playing a lot of noble, good-guy roles, and it’s amazing to see his ability to also play an undermining, heartless, scathing character to the hilt!

Matthew Carlton delivers a delightful portrayal of apprentice angel Clarence Odbody, whose job is to make George realize his value to his hometown. With a lot of charm and a good dose of humor along the way, Carlton’s characterization makes the audience hope for that bell to ring, signaling Clarence’s promotion to a “first class” angel to receive his wings.

The story of It’s a Wonderful Life is deeply sentimental, and Studio Tenn’s production brilliantly captures its profound gem: Even if our lives are seemingly small, our impact can be big, and the love of family, friends and neighbors are what make life worth living.

 

Chad Young is the managing editor and arts/entertainment editor for this publication.

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