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It's A Wonderful Life

Pitlochry Festival Theatre
Three stars
The programme for Pitlochry's latest festive outing may claim Thomas M. 
Sharkey's stage adaptation of Frank Capra's seminal 1946 film inspired 
by Philip Van Doren Stern's short story, The Greatest Gift of All, to 
be 'A New Musical!', but the show is actually some twenty years old. 
While there may be good reasons why it's taken so long for Sharkey's 
take on things to receive its Scottish premiere, after last year's 
success with White Christmas, it is nevertheless a bold move for 
director John Durnin to programme something so rarely seen onstage, 
however iconic its source.

Much of the story remains unchanged, as small-town everyman George 
Bailey attempts to throw himself off a bridge before an angel called 
Clarence steps in with what these days would be deemed an intervention. 
The first half has Clarence watch over George as a celestial narrator 
to see how he got to such a state, while in the second, Clarence shows 
George how the picket-fence town of Bedford Falls would have descended 
into a fleshpot akin to Twin Peaks without him.

In what is effectively an American take on Charles Dickens' A Christmas 
Carol for the post Wall Street Crash era, such cosmological shifts are 
as serious as anything by Arthur Miller, feelgood ending 
notwithstanding. While played brightly enough by a cast led by John 
Jack as George and Robin Harvey Edwards as Clarence, stylistically 
things fall between two stools. In tone and aesthetic it feels like a 
fringe show, yet has clear aspirations to be a far bigger 
Broadway-bound affair, which Sharkey's pleasantly delivered if 
unremarkably generic musical numbers simply aren't up to. An 
intriguingly flawed curio.

The Herald, December 6th 2013

ends

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