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