NORTH EAST — They say it’s the chance of a lifetime. A film classic comes to life this Friday with the stage adaptation of Frank Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life” directed by Dane Hutchinson.
Realizing he is worth more dead than alive, George Bailey contemplates suicide before an intervention from his guardian angel, Clarence. As Clarence’s famous line goes: “Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?”
The film being a holiday favorite of director Hutchinson’s, it was a bit daunting to take it to the stage.
“I actually had to hide my copy of the DVD so I would not watch it,” Hutchinson said. He did have the cast watch the original “Miracle on 34th Street” for inspiration from another holiday classic and to study mannerisms and speech patterns common in the ‘30s and ‘40s.
Hutchinson has put his own spin on the tale, most notably by having including makeup, costumes and set pieces.
When it comes to holiday movies, Hutchinson prefers the classic black and white movies or animated tales. He said he wanted the performance of “It’s a Wonderful Life” to have the same charm and intimacy of an old movie.
He hopes the audience will enjoy the play so much it leaves them with a desire to rush home and decorate the house with family, one of his favorite traditions for this time of year.
“We’re about to enter a really hectic, crazy time of the year. I want them to watch and just feel warm and remember that what they have is so much greater than what they don’t,” Hutchinson said.
During the play, the audience will see George Bailey as a young boy and married man, at the height of happiness and in the depths of despair. For Dan Karrer, 29, of Elkton, taking on the role of George Bailey means playing an “everyman.”
“It’s a story of hope; everyone can enjoy a story of hope. Even when you’re down and out, you’ve got friends that you can lean on,” he said.
For those who love the movie adaptation, the play is a way to relive that experience through a new lens.
Being in the show inspired Barbara Walker, 27, of Newark, to watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” for the first time. She plays Mary, who captures George Bailey’s heart.
Walker said Hutchinson’s take on the beloved classic pays homage to the movie without leaving the audience feeling like they just popped in the DVD at home.
“Even though we’re not trying to mimic the movie, if you love the movie you will still love the show,” she said.
The musical runs Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. this Friday through Dec. 1. Tickets are $18 for adults, $15 for seniors and students and $10 for children.