December 21, 2022
Review: Gamm's 'It's a Wonderful Life' Is a Welcome Holiday Tradition
Will Demers READ TIME: 2 MIN.
Christmas Eve, 1946. George Bailey (Jeff Church) is at the end of his rope, watched by two angels in Heaven. Joseph (Richard Noble) tasks wingless angel trainee Clarence (Fred Sullivan, Jr.) with saving George from taking his own life. If you're one of the few people that have never seen the film version of "It's a Wonderful Life," then this may sound like a strange premise. But rest assured, it's a magical, sentimental Holiday tradition that may even surprise you.
Joe Landry (American playwright and designer) adapts the film to a live radio play, that is to say it is performed onstage in a vintage radio station set complete with live sound effects performed by a Foley artist and all of the characters performed by seven actors. The Gamm presents this fun production for the fourth time, but this year it seems all the fresher with a snappier version of the show, bringing all of the pathos, drama, and humor to the front. Church, a veteran of many Gamm roles, steps into the shoes formerly filled by Tony Estrella, who portrayed George for the last three productions.
For certain, Church is the right choice, as are the rest of the returning cast members. Sullivan and Noble, plus Lynsey Ford and Helena Tafuri, bring their considerable vocal talents. Sullivan's Henry Potter makes everyone giggle despite being a villain, you can tell he's enjoying every minute. And Noble can vocalize a drunk with relish. Ford and Tafuri are delightful as are Rodney Witherspoon (last seen in Trinity Rep's "The Inheritance") and Milly Massey, who has been seen in several Gamm productions and who tickles the ivory for us through a few humorous radio jingles.
We also are treated to the adorable Will Malloy's Foley talents before the show even starts, during an audience sing-along of "The Twelve Days of Christmas," and his debut here is most welcome. The "jingles" are even a clever addition, sung as they would have been in 1946 and beckoning listeners to open a checking account or make a donation to the theater.
The Gamm is certainly on its way to making this another Holiday tradition, just as Trinity Repertory Company has with its "Christmas Carol," and perhaps this could be another one you add to your yearly outings. Originally staged by Damon Kiely and remounted by Estrella, "It's a Wonderful Life" will make you laugh, bring you to tears, and clap with absolute delight.
"It's Wonderful Life" runs from December 9th to the 24th at The Gamm Theatre, 1245 Jefferson Boulevard, Warwick, RI 02886. For information or tickets call 401-723-4266 or visit www.gammtheatre.org.