by Jody Tuso-Key — Managing Editor
Many of us know the story of IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE by heart. I remember back to the days where it would be on almost every television station each night after Thanksgiving leading up to Christmas. For over 70 years, this enduring Christmas staple has spanned generations, and once again Aurora Theatre is offering a theatrical adaptation of the classic tale with THIS WONDERFUL LIFE until December 23rd.
In this one man show adapted for the stage by former Atlanta playwright and film critic Steve Murray, actor Jeremy Aggers takes on the daunting task of telling this iconic story in the span of one hour, with minimal set and props: a candlestick telephone on a desk, an old-time radio on a table, and an aged suitcase. What unfolds on stage is nothing short of a Christmas miracle as Aggers narrates the story and takes on just about every role in the film. Seeing him move seamlessly back and forth from one role to another is a sight to behold. He captures the voices and mannerisms of George Bailey, Mr. Potter, Old Man Gower, Uncle Billy, and Clarence the Angel, and each and every cast member convincingly, and even fares well with the female roles of Mary Bailey, Ma Bailey, Annie the Maid, and even little Susu. It’s little wonder Mr. Aggers’s performance won the 2019 Suzi Bass award for Lead Actor-Male, and he once again proves he deserves the honor with this energetic, heart-felt performance.
The charm of this performance emanates from the venue of the Aurora Studio Theatre, an intimate 3/4 thrust which allows the audience to feel as if they are part of the action. Under the direction of Justin Anderson, Jeremy plays skillfully to all sides of the stage, sometimes even venturing up the risers to include the audience in the action. The scenic design by Isabel and Moriah Curley-Clay features a large backdrop postcard of Bedford Falls, and adorable miniatures of the Old Granville house, the Bailey Building and Loan, Ma Bailey’s Boarding House, and Potter’s Offices. The lights and sound are superb and enhance the performance immensely. From the clever lighting effect of the guardian angels in heaven, to the subtle sound that appears to come from the radio and telephone receiver, lighting designer Mike Morin and Sound Designer Anna Lee prove they are masters of their respective crafts.
Those who adore this holiday classic will be mesmerized, and those who aren’t familiar with the film will enjoy this performance so much they’ll want to run home, watch the movie, and see what all the fuss is about. Be sure and add this Speakeysie must see to your list of holiday theater fare, get your tickets at Aurora Theatre, and have a very Merry Christmas!