One of the most popular holiday stories set to film will play out on the live stage this season in Munster.

"A Wonderful Life: The Musical" begins previews today at Theatre at the Center. The show, which officially opens Sunday, runs through Dec. 23.

The musical, directed by Bill Pullinsi, is based on the Frank Capra film about a desperate George Bailey who searches for life's meaning during the Yuletide season.

"It follows the movie pretty closely," said Pullinsi, adding this version is unique in that it features music by Joe Raposo and book and lyrics by Sheldon Harnick.

"I like everything about the show," the director said. "And I love the Capra movie. It's a classic," he said, about the film starring Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed.

"The music is good and it suits the story," Pullinsi said. The production, he said, features a mix of tunes, including love songs and "dramatic" songs.

Pullinsi called the story a perfect "Christmas or holiday fantasy" which has a wonderful message.

The director said he started preparing and working on the holiday production about six months ago.

"I work about six months in advance on any show I direct," he said. Pullinsi admires the caliber of actors in the production.

"This is a 23-person cast and most of them are playing two to three parts," he said, which is another reason to start working on a show of this type so far in advance.

About the story of "A Wonderful Life," Pullinsi said, "It's a play with a lot of morals. It's based on a short story called 'The Greatest Gift.' The message of the book is that God gave life to man and it's his greatest gift," the director said.

Pullinsi explained that character George learns how one person's life "affects so many people's lives." The angel who visits George shows him how much his life matters, the director said.

"George is saved and we're saved and we have a happy ending," Pullinsi said. The show, Pullinsi said, makes people laugh and cry.

"That's what theater does, it entertains and moves you," the director said.

Starring in "A Wonderful Life: The Musical" are David Sajewich, Allison Sill, James Harms, David Perkovich, Jim Heatherly, Jason Richards and others.

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Features reporter

Eloise writes about food and entertainment for The Times, subjects she has covered for over two decades in and around the Region. She was the youngest of eight children in a Chicago household filled with fantastic cooks and artists.