Malvern Theatre premieres the new tour of It’s A Wonderful Life this week, following its successful West End run. Frank Capra’s classic Christmas screenplay, cleverly adapted for stage by Tony Palmero, doesn’t seem too out of place as we experience an unusually cold summer. Guy Retallack beautifully directs this heart-warming story of a kind, ambitious man who reaches the point where he believes everyone would have been better off if he’d never existed and, with a little divine intervention, gets to experience such a world. Presented as a live radio drama, the year is 1949 and the musical underscoring, wonderfully articulated accents and authentic infomercials perfectly encapsulate the era and gently lull the audience into a bygone age.
A cast of six present all of the residents of Bedford Falls, the epitome of small town America. Oliver Stoney is brilliant as the protagonist, George Bailey, whose hopes are snatched from him at every conceivable turn. His vocal tones are luxurious and dreamy and endear you to his plight. Equal vocal prowess is delivered by radio host, David Benson, and Lynsey Beauchamp as they skip through their multitude of characters. Augustine Seymour is just darling as Mary Bailey and Richard Albrecht is extremely likeable as Angle 2nd Class, Clarence, and George’s unfortunate Uncle Billy. Special mention goes to Benjamin Chamberlain, whose vocal gymnastics are simply delicious, in all of his many guises, throughout the performance. The live sound effects on stage add a great dimension to proceedings as does Richard Williamson’s atmospheric lighting design.
This is an utterly charming and delightful production and refreshingly shorter than many plays, running at just under two hours including interval. Indulge and spoil yourself and go and see this evening of inspired entertainment. The UK tour runs until 21st June and then resumes on 7th October until 6th December, with only one or two nights in each venue. Merry Christmas! ★★★★★ Rob Holcroft 10/06/15