'THIS WONDERFUL LIFE' GIVING OUT WINGS!
THIS WONDERFUL LIFE
What’s it about … The story of a man on a bridge, how he got there and how he found his way home.
Why you should go … If you are like me - and everyone else, except a young lady named Juliana in the opening audience last week - you have seen It’s A Wonderful Life before, perhaps many times before. Now comes the American Blues Theater Chicago premiere of This Wonderful Life, the terrific one-man show adaptation written by Steve Murray, directed by Carmen Roman and starring James Leaming playing for a limited run at The Edge Theater on North Broadway. Leaming, the original George Bailey in the American Blues long-running production of the 1940s radio play (which returns for its annual run on November 16th at their new home, Stage 773) has a coming home story all his own. After playing the role for 6 years, Leaming began a critically-acclaimed tour of this show in 2008, a production that has been seen on stages across the country. All points led to Chicago this fall, so Bedford Falls and over 30 of its lovable characters – and the not-so-lovable Mr. Potter – have now made a heartwarming return.
A one-man show … Leaming's brilliantly nuanced performance includes classic references and some truly inspired commentary on show elements that, judging from the audience reaction, are a bit of a revelation. Being an ardent fan of the film only helps to raise your appreciation for the ease in which Leaming creates multiple characters and shifts the ever-changing locales in a seamless tapestry of clever technical projections, lighting and sound effects that support his captivating performance.
The many faces and voices of Bedford Falls… this is a non-stop, steady, finely-tuned and superbly delivered gem. There is a blisteringly fast recap of the story at the top - a teaser of sorts - for the evening to come. Leaming’s George Bailey is warm and folksy, witty, shaken and scared. As Mr. Potter, he is strikingly diabolical, while the interactions in the characters of Mary, his mother and the other women’s roles are both tender and real.
What to wait for … No matter how many times I see it, it is hard to dismiss the well of emotions that bubble up in this story. On this intimate stage, with the exceptionally versatile Leaming leading the way, those endearing moments come alive. A truly moving performance.
The takeaway … No man is a failure who has friends. So, take it to heart, gather everyone you know and make a date for This Wonderful Life, now playing in a limited engagement through November 26th.