Frank Capra’s holiday classic, IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, is a movie that brings to mind so many cherished memories of the holiday season. People always seems to have a story about the first time they saw the movie, or how it is a holiday tradition. Currently at Act II Playhouse is the show THIS WONDERFUL LIFE written by Steve Murray, a one man show, which is the stage version of IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, but with a twist. The twist is that all the roles are played by just one actor, the talented Tony Braithwaite. Braithwaite brings all the things people love about the film to the stage, and his performance is precise and heartwarmingly captures the emotional impact of the film.
Tony Braithwaite, who directs and stars in THIS WONDERFUL LIFE, creates a magical theatrical experience. Through his wit and charm he creates the world of George Bailey, and audiences see how Braithwaite brings forth all the heart of the movie without the necessity of additional actors or scenery. What makes Braithwaite’s performance exceptional is that he encapsulates the audience within the world of Bedford Falls, and draws them into the story and characters so completely that quite simply additional actors are unnecessary and would most likely disturb the intimacy of the show. He skillfully provides distinct voices and personality to each character throughout the show, so it gives the impression of a much larger cast production. Audiences will laugh, tear up with emotion and feel nostalgic as Braithwaite performs scenes from this beloved movie. In addition to bringing the film to stage, Braithwaite also sprinkles in fun facts about the movie and its cast. This production of THIS WONDERFUL LIFE highlights Braithwaite’s versatility as a performer, he is best known for his comedic brilliance, but this is a reminder that he also delivers a ton of charm and emotional sincerity to bring out the tender and heartwarming side of a show such as this. From the moment Braithwaite walks onstage audiences will experience how much he truly loves the movie, IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, and as he immerses the audience in the world of George Bailey he will provide them respite from the outside world, if for only ninety minutes, and allow them to simply enjoy this heartwarming classic.
The set is simply decorated for this show, and it adds to the holiday spirit of the production. The set was designed by Colin McIlvane. Andy Shaw is the Lighting Designer and John Stovicek is the Sound Designer and Composer. In addition, Courteny Boches designed Braithwaite’s costume, which is a perfect fit for the show and comes complete with a bow tie.
THIS WONDERFUL LIFE runs at Act II Playhouse through December 24, 2016. However, at present the show is completely sold out for the entire run. For more information about Act II Playhouse and their upcoming shows visit their website at www.act2.org or call the box office at 215-654-0200.
Photo Credit: Mark Garvin.
Kelli Curtin is founding editor and writer for theatresensation.com. In addition, she is a contributor for the online site broadwayworld.com. Kelli is excited to share her passion about theatre and the Arts with her readers. Kelli can be found on Twitter, Facebook and on Instagram.
*Review also appears on Broadwayworld Philadelphia