“Don’t mess with success” may be director Carol Harris’s motto for South Valley Civic Theatre’s holiday production of “It’s a Wonderful Life,” a stage version of the hugely successful and well known 1946 Frank Capra film—the one starring Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed that’s broadcast on TV every single Christmas.
Her cast—starting with Seph McCarty as George Bailey and Audrey Del Prete as Mary—appears to be channeling Stewart and Reed in their rehearsals.
“You have to give it what people are familiar with,” said Harris, who directed the same show for SVCT a decade ago—long enough that Scott Lynch, who played George Bailey in that production, has grown into the role of the fledgling angel Clarence. “I just try to approach the sensitivity of the George character, the family relationships. It’s a story of trust and love and relationships and the fact that if he had never been born, these people would never have ended up in the same way.”
As if a refresher is needed: “It’s a Wonderful Life” is the story of George Bailey, a frustrated businessman in Bedford Falls who’s spent his life giving things up for others, and on Christmas Eve is thinking about ending his life. His guardian angel, Clarence, shows him what life would be like if he’d never been born, and restores his faith in himself and humanity.
McCarty and Del Prete, both San Jose residents who are new to the SVCT stage, are undaunted by the giants of the screen who preceded them.
“The show’s been around forever,” said McCarty, who came to the show without preconceived notions of what role he might play. ”It’s tapping into something people can connect with. I feel like that character gets to everyone deep down.”
By contrast, Del Prete specifically auditioned for the role of Mary. “I felt like I was Mary,” she said. “I just think about the other moments in my life that have been similar.”
McCarty said he first saw the film when he was 8 or 10 years old.
“I really am glad to be doing it,” he said. “I feel a genuine connection with the struggle George faces.”
Harris thinks the show is a perfect holiday drama and musical.
“The kindness among strangers goes so far,” she said. “George Bailey didn’t have a lot, but what he had he gave away, and it all came back to him.”
The show’s co-producers are Robin Bezanson and Judi Grant. It also stars James Daniel Pearson as Henry Potter, Sean O’Connor as Harry Bailey, Jeff Swan as Uncle Billy, Bob Brown as Mr. Gower, Scotty Gregg as Sam Wainwright and Cambria Pace as Zuzu.
“It’s a Wonderful Life,” by James W. Rodgers. South Valley Civic Theatre. Nov. 16-Dec. 8 at the Morgan Hill Community Playhouse, 17090 Monterey Road, Morgan Hill. Tickets $25, $20 seniors, $16 youth. 800.838.3006; svct.org.