“It’s a Wonderful Life” gets new take at Pawtucket’s Community Players

By Kimberly Rau

Almost everyone knows the classic movie “It’s a Wonderful Life,” where the overworked and underappreciated George Bailey feels like the world would be better without him in it…until the angel Clarence, desperate to earn his wings, convinces him otherwise. It’s a feel-good movie that no holiday would be without…but it’s also a relatively new musical, which, under director Vinny Lupino, is full of heart on the TCP stage. 

To get this out of the way, the script as a whole could be better. A lot of the musical numbers seem a little undercooked. But in the hands of choreographer Karen Kessler, the ensemble still brings those numbers to life. The ensemble, it should be noted, has a lot to do in this show, as Bailey spends most of his time (try as he might to leave) around his sleepy hometown of Bedford Falls, and they make the most of every scene. Ron Procopio returns as musical director and leads an energetic, accomplished orchestra that makes even the score’s rough spots sound great. 

Meagan McNulty-Morales returns to the Community Players having had several starring roles there in the past, including Maria in The Sound of Music when she was still in high school. Her stunning voice has only somehow gotten better with time, and she is a joy to watch and listen to as Mary Bailey, George’s wife who always seems to be able to make the best of things for her husband. 

Steve Morris, another TCP veteran, steals the show as Clarence, the upbeat angel who’s been trying to earn his wings for some 200 years, according to his conversations with God. He has excellent comedic chemistry with Duane Langley, who plays George, but also holds the stage on his own quite well in solo numbers such as “Second Class Angel.” It’s a song that could use some editing, but in Morris’ hands (or under his soft-shoe), it’s a hit. 

And finally, Brian Mulvey as the have-to-hate-him Mr. Potter does a great job with the two-dimensional character he’s been given.  Not that every bad guy needs a soft side, but Potter as written is straight-up evil, going so far as to steal money directly from other characters. But Mulvey makes him interesting and has a great vocal range for the role. 

If you’re looking for some extra Christmas nostalgia this winter, you can’t go wrong with the classics. Check out this new take through Dec. 9 at The Community Players, Jenks Auditorium, 350 Division St., Pawtucket. Tickets are $18 for youth/students (please have ID) and $23 general admission and may be purchased online at www.thecommunityplayers.net or by calling 401.726-6860

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