published Friday, November 25th, 2011

Gem Theater brings classic 'It's a Wonderful Life' to stage

Audiences will know the story, the characters and the ending, but director LaMone Rose said that shouldn't stop them from seeing one of America's most beloved movies come to Etowah's Gem Theater stage.

"It's a Wonderful Life," based on Frank Capra's 1946 movie and adapted for the stage by Tony Palermo, will open the theater's 19th season tonight and run for three weekends.

The stage version, according to Rose, will bring the characters "down to earth" and allow audiences to better see them as "the every man," so any one of them could experience what the character is experiencing.

She said the play tells the familiar story of Bedford Falls family man George Bailey, whose dreams of escape and adventure have been quashed by family obligation and civic duty.

Just as he's ready to dash it all by jumping off a bridge on Christmas Eve, his guardian angel arrives to save him from despair and show him what the world would have been like had he not been born. Despite not meeting his intended goals and dreams, he is shown that he has made a difference and, in fact, led a wonderful life.

Rose said her George and Mary Bailey are teenagers, but audiences will quickly overlook that fact "as they watch them grow from innocence into maturity."

Cleveland State Community College student Josh Whitfield portrays George, she said, and may remind audiences members at times of the film's lead, Jimmy Stewart.

The 20-member cast includes a number of newcomers and 10 people behind the scenes.

An "awesome" set makes use of every part of the theater, Rose said. Added to that are authentic costuming, music, sound effects and special lighting techniques.

In the end, said Rose, even though the audience knows the story, "good triumphs over evil. We want that. It brings joy and satisfaction that all ended well."

IF YOU GO

What: "It's a Wonderful Life."

When: 7:30 p.m. today, Saturday, Dec. 2-3 and Dec. 9-10; 2:30 p.m. Sunday and Dec. 4 and 11. Box office opens one hour before showtime.

Where: Gem Theater, 700 Tennessee Ave. (Highway 411), Etowah, Tenn.

Admission: $12 adults, $10 children ages 12-under; $25 dinner and show (Dec. 3).

Phone: 423-263-3270.

Website: www.gemplayers.com.

Note: Tickets are available in advance at The Town Squire Menswear, Cleveland, Tenn.; and Southern Heritage Antiques, Etowah, Tenn.

about Clint Cooper...

Clint Cooper is the faith editor and a staff writer for the Times Free Press Life section. He also has been an assistant sports editor and Metro staff writer for the newspaper. Prior to the merger between the Chattanooga Free Press and Chattanooga Times in 1999, he was sports news editor for the Chattanooga Free Press, where he was in charge of the day-to-day content of the section and the section’s design. Before becoming sports ...

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