Dona Henry, co-director of Valparaiso’s Chicago Street Theatre’s production of “It’s a Wonderful Life,” says their frequent productions of the Christmas favorite have become presents of sorts to a handful of area thesps.
“There’s several people that have been in other versions of the play in the past that have come back to do this show,” she said. “They love the show as much as we do.”
Opening Nov. 24 and running through Dec. 16, “Wonderful” is the tale of George Bailey, a down-on-his-luck businessman, husband and father who, lamenting ending his life, is steered in the right direction by his guardian angel, Clarence.
Based on “The Greatest Gift,” a 1943 short story by American writer Philip Van Doren Stern, “Life” was brought to the big screen in 1945. Directed by Frank Capra and starring James Stewart as George Bailey, “Life” was nominated for five Academy Awards and was listed as one of the 100 best American Films by the American Film Institute nearly two decades ago.
Henry, who is directing this year’s “Wonderful” production with Kelly Hite, has directed Chicago Street productions of the holiday classic four times over the course of the last near-two decades.
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“I absolutely love the story,” Henry said. “It’s my favorite movie. It’s a story of friendship and hopes and dreams and finding out who your friends are, and how one person can change the lives of so many others. It’s just a happy story.”
Jason Frederick is George Bailey, Jim Drader is Clarence, Amber Shambo is Mary Bailey in Chicago Street’s production of “Wonderful.” Also included in the cast are Dave Pera and Dan Matern, alternating performances in the role of Bailey’s business rival, Mr. Potter, Matthew Kiley as George’s brother, Harry and Craig Nordstrom as George’s cousin, Billy.
“The cast is pretty darn amazing,” Henry said.
An opening night party is scheduled following the Nov. 24 performance at Martinis, 1004 Calumet Ave., Valparaiso.
Next up for Chicago Street Theatre is a production of the adult-minded “Hurlyburly,” scheduled to open Jan. 19.