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Theatre Review Print

Cary Players' 2009 Edition of It's a Wonderful Life Was New and Improved

December 7, 2009 - Cary, NC:

The Cary Players' new-and-improved 2009 edition of It's a Wonderful Life: A Radio Drama, Phil Grecian's frisky "radio play," based on director Frank Capra's Oscar®-nominated 1946 film, provided a showcase for a lot of talent; and the Cary Players filled that showcase to the brim on December 4-7 in their second annual presentation of this entertaining 1940s-style radio show, performed once again in the Cary Town Council Chambers.

Director Debra Zumbach Grannan and musical director and accompanist Craig Johnson coaxed crowd-pleasing performances from their acting ensemble, set designer Jon Dietz transformed the Town Council Chambers into a convincing facsimile of a radio broadcast studio, and costume designer Lauren Polak clothed the cast in fabulous 1940s fashions. Properties managers Jeff Nugent, Bob Grannan, and Jon Dietz did yeoman’s work in creating all the gizmos and whatzits in this prop-heavy production; Foley artists Ruth Berry, Rita Dimoulas, and Pam Smith provided a pleasing potpourri of sound effects; sound designer David Wolk helped spice up the broadcast with snippets of sound; and original radio jingles written by Debra Grannan and Craig Johnson were performed live as salutes to the advertisers in the show’s program.

Tracy Fulghum was terrific as George Bailey, the reluctant chief executive of a small-town building and loan whose mortgage-making activities earn the eternal enmity of the ruthless Mr. Potter (Bing Cox), who wants to squeeze every penny that he can out of the most financially vulnerable citizens of Bedford Falls, NY. Fulghum tackled the classic Jimmy Stewart role of George with brio, and made the part his own. Meanwhile, Cox strutted and fretted delightfully as the odious Mr. Potter and also played The Boss in heaven and Italian restaurateur Mr. Martini with personality-plus.

Jeff Nugent was sweet and shy and very, very funny as George’s awkward guardian angel Clarence; and Diane Monson gave a warm and winning performance as George’s high school sweetheart and later wife Mary Hatch Bailey. Dan Martschenko was good as George’s bumbling Uncle Billy; and Joel T. Horton cut a fine figure as Harry Bailey, who won the Congressional Medal of Honor for his World War II heroics while his brother George was locked in fierce economic combat with Mr. Potter on the home front.

The 2009 edition of It’s a Wonderful Life was new and noticeably improved, thanks to director Debra Grannan and an imaginative and resourceful cast and crew. Triangle theatergoers can only hope that there will be a 2010 edition, and that it will run at least two weekends.