Local area youth are bringing the old-fashioned Christmas spirit to the east side with a production of “A Wonderful Life,” a musical based on Frank Capra’s beloved 1946 movie starring James Stewart as everyman George Bailey. Full disclosure: “It’s a Wonderful Life” is one of my favorite movies of all time. I can practically recite the script along with each traditional Christmastime viewing. So when I attended the show’s opening night, my expectations were either too high to meet, or my love of the story so firm as to ensure I’d love any rendition of the relatable tale. Turns out, the production was so well done that my biases in either direction were rendered entirely unnecessary.
Journey Theater Arts Group is a firmly Christian organization, so it’s exceedingly appropriate that the show opens with a prayer—George Bailey’s desperate plea to “Help me, show me the way.” The plot faithfully follows the original film’s storyline, which is enhanced for the stage experience by original musical numbers accompanied by a live band. Battle Ground High School junior, Alex Forstrom, gives an impressively earnest and heartbreaking performance as disenchanted dreamer George Bailey, and Grace Sommers channels Donna Reed’s loyal Mary Hatch Bailey. Even crochety old Mr. Potter gets a solo number—indeed, young actor Cameron Sears, who plays Potter, gives the best vocal performance of the show. Clarence the angel, played by 12-year-old Sophie Gilliam provides the comic relief, and the supporting chorus is comprised of Bedford Falls townsfolk, donning delightfully vintage costumes and props. All come together to illustrate the impact that each life has on so many others.
“A Wonderful Life” plays now through December 15 at Washburn Performing Arts Center at Washougal High School. Go here for showtimes and ticket information.
Want to learn more about how Journey Theater Arts Group creates a vibrant place for families to work and play together? Check out my article “All in the Family” in this month’s print issue of Vancouver Family Magazine.