Stage adaptation of beloved Christmas classic opens on Friday
The story of “everyman” George Bailey is a classic Christmas favorite that will be brought to the stage this weekend by the Mid Ohio Valley Players youth theater.
“It’s a Wonderful Life,” a stage play adapted by James W. Rodgers, is based on the 1946 film by Frank Capra, which starred Jimmy Stewart, Donna Reed and Lionel Barrymore.
The local production will star high school students Alex Bauerbach, as George; Madi Moore, as Mary Hatch; and Max Schafer as the villainous Mr. Potter. The other familiar characters, including Bert the cop and Ernie the taxi driver, Sam Wainwright, Harry and ma Bailey, Uncle Billy and all the colorful townspeople will be brought to life by students from all over the valley. Oh, and one can’t forget George’s guardian angel, with a twist.
Clare Odbody will be portrayed by Payton Burkhammer, a 17-year-old senior at Parkersburg High School, in her final season with the youth theater. The program is open to sixth- through 12th-graders.
“It is kind of sad this being my last show but I enjoy being a senior (in the program) because I get to mentor the younger kids,” Burkhammer said.
Changing things up and making the beloved angel Clarence into a female didn’t require much other than changing the name and a few pronouns.
“It’s been fun,” Burkhammer said. “Clarence was described in the script as a ‘jolly old man’ so I was surprised when I got the role but I was excited because it’s such a classic.”
Clare helps the main character, George Bailey, when the path of his life takes him on a detour into despair.
Alex Bauerbach, a relative newcomer to the theater, is taking on the challenging role of George, portrayed in the movie by Stewart.
“I really like the movie — I think I’ve seen it about four times,” said the 16-year-old Marietta High School student. “I do try to pattern myself after Jimmy Stewart.”
Bauerbach said the last show he was in was “Toy Camp” with the MOVP Junior Players, about eight years ago.
“My mom saw the information for (Wonderful Life) in the newspaper and thought I should audition … I was really surprised to be given this part,”he said.
The biggest challenge, according to Bauerbach, has been learning all of George’s dialogue.
Bauerbach’s younger sister, Emma, was cast as Zuzu, the Bailey’s youngest daughter, who says the iconic line, “Every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings.”
Erik Helander, a 17-year-old Swedish exchange student attending Monroe Central High School, is cast in the role of Mr. Martini, a bartender who is generous and friendly, or on the flip side of George’s life, stingy and mean.
Helander’s host in the United States also happens to be director George “JR” Wells.
“I put on my letter (for the exchange program application) that I was interested in doing drama … it just fits that George (Wells) is the director,” he said.
Mr. Martini is supposed to be an Italian immigrant in the show but Helander plays him a little differently.
“We made him more Swedish because it was hard for me to get the accent,” he said.
For Helander, Bauerbach and Burkhammer, getting to know their fellow cast members has been the most rewarding part.
“This show revolves around the central theme of friends and family,” said Burkhammer, “and we really are like a big family.”
The show, directed by JR Wells, Susan Boyer and Stephanie Winland, will be presented one weekend only: this Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. The Players Theatre is located at 229 Putnam St. Tickets are $8 and $6 and can be purchased at Marty’s Print Shop, the theater box office, the CVB and online at midohiovalleyplayers.org.
If you go
What: “It’s a Wonderful Life” presented by MOVP Youth Theater
When: Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m., Sunday matinee at 3 p.m.
Where: Mid Ohio Valley Players Theatre, 229 Putnam St., Marietta
Tickets: $8 adults, $6 youth; available at Marty’s Print Shop, the Marietta-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau, www.midohiovalleyplayers.org or at the box office prior to showtime.
Sponsored by: The Original Pizza Place
Cast & crew
Directors: JR Wells, Susan Boyer, Stephanie Winland
George Bailey: Alex Bauerbach
Clare Odbody: Payton Burkhammer
Mr. Gower: Todd Goocey
Young George: Emmett Tobius
Harry Bailey/Mr. Welch: Chase Myers
Mother Bailey: Renee Knolle
Aunt Tilly: Azelyn Kerenick
Violet Peterson: Meadow McCarthy
Bert/Sam Wainwright (voice): Andy Sands
Ernie: Josh Goocey
Uncle Billy: Shane Johnson
Mary Hatch: Madi Moore
Henry F. Potter: Maxwell Schafer
Mr. Potter’s Goon: Davey Thrasher
Mr. Potter’s Secretary: Sydney Gammon
Mrs. Hatch: Halley Johnson
Miss Andrews: Ashley Rexroad
Mrs. Thompson: Jules Stephens
Mr. Martini: Erik Helander
Mrs. Martini: Aura Bruce
Miss Carter: Holly Buskirk
Newspaper Girl: Maeghan O’Neill
Patricia Bailey: Macey Johnson
Tommy Bailey : C.J. Rollins
Zuzu Bailey: Emma Bauerbach
Janie Bailey: Rachel Gaston
Towns Folk1: Blalund Rollins
Towns Folk2: Chiara Gaia