A familiar holiday movie tradition gets a second re-birth in yet another musical version of the classic film “It’s a Wonderful Life”. And, it hits Circa 21 Dinner Playhouse 20 years after the first musical rebirth took its final bow on the same stage.
“A Wonderful Life is at least the second musical rendering of the classic holiday film, dropping the “It’s” from the title this time around. But, instead of staying true to the classic, this musical takes liberties and changes some of the tones of the film.
It works on some levels. We get more of a sense that George Bailey is, in a way, trapped in his role with the Building and Loan. He had bigger dreams, but responsibility on his part, and lack of it on his brother’s, leaves him stuck in the town he’d hoped to leave.
It doesn’t work on others. There’s less of a sense of the innocence of the time conveyed in the film. There are also songs simply for musical’s sake. It would almost be better as a play, dropping the songs that don’t actually advance the story.
But that’s the show itself and not Circa’s production. Other than some poor pacing in a couple of numbers (particularly when the townsfolk storm the Building and Loan), Circa’s production is a valiant effort using less than valiant material. The set is simple, harkening to the memory of a simpler time, as recalled in the film. And, the actors are more than up to the task. There are some very smile-inducing moments, thanks to the actors. In fact, I found myself watching the chorus members closely to see the way they made their characters stand out a bit. And, it’s the little things, like the way one woman waved her flag in a count different than everyone else was waving their flag. There are lots of these little moments, which were quite fun to find.
Personally, I think dinner theater a wonderful holiday tradition to hold to, here in the Quad Cities. And, with “A Wonderful Life”, the tradition also holds the familiar, even if it’s changed a bit. On top of that, Circa’s presentation of the music is well worth watching.
“A Wonderful Life” runs through January 3rd at Circa 21 Dinner Playhouse in Rock Island. Tickets are available through the theater’s website – circa21.com – or by calling the Box office at (309) 786-7733.