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ArtsCentric updates ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’

Stacy M. Brown | 11/29/2013, 6 a.m.
Photo Caption: Ashley Johnson plays Mary Bailey; Moses Rodrigues plays George Bailey; and Lauren Stoltzfus (middle) plays George’s guardian angel Clarence in ArtCentric’s production of “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Cameron Whitman

— Kevin McAllister has seen the classic film, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” several times.

McAllister, a Helen Hayes Award-nominated actor and artistic director at ArtsCentric in Baltimore, knows well the story of George Bailey, the small-town man whose life appears so desperate that he contemplates suicide.

So, McAllister decided to bring the traditional Christmastime story to the Garland Theater on the campus of the Garrison Forest School in Owings Mills. But, he’s doing it with a major twist.

“This starts in the mid-1970s and it doesn’t focus on the idea of banks and loans,” McAllister said. “It deals with the age of communication and the Internet.”

There is little doubt that the integrity of the 1946 Frank Capra film remains intact during this production, but McAllister wants it to resonate with his audience.

“It’s a multicultural production. The young man who plays George Bailey in our play is Latino and there are 14 children in the cast, a few of which are biracial,” he said. “We’ve taken the story of a man giving up life for his community and we apply that to today, because this story can apply to anyone, including anyone of color.”

In Capra’s production, which starred James Stewart, the main character had a strong desire to leave his small town of Bedford Falls to explore the world. However, his penchant for helping others forced to him to stay. Bailey sacrificed personal opportunities to keep the family banking business afloat and to protect the town from an unscrupulous banker.

As he prepares to jump off of a bridge, Bailey’s guardian angel stops him and shows him what life would have been like for the locals if he had never been in their presence.

Considered one of the best movies ever made, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” received five Academy Award nominations and many deem it the most inspirational American film ever.

ArtsCentric’s production of, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” also tells the story of Bailey, by transitioning scenes between past and present day. In a flashback, George is seen abandoning his big dreams for the good of his town. In the present, George appears broken and suicidal on Christmas Eve over the misplacement of an $80,000 loan payment.

Bailey’s guardian angel, Clarence, falls to Earth, literally, and shows him how his town, family, and friends would turn out if he had never been born.

“It’s a play that deals with modern definitions of family and community. The show will not only feature a talented multicultural cast, it will explore what it means to come together in times of crisis, and to see the basic humanity in your fellow man,” McAllister said.

In the spirit of giving, and in keeping with ArtsCentric’s longstanding commitment to community service, McAllister said ArtsCentric will donate a portion of the ticket sales to Adopt-A-Family, a program of The Family Tree in Baltimore, a nonprofit whose mission includes the prevention of child abuse and neglect.

Performances are scheduled for Friday and Saturday December 6-7 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday December 8 at 5 p.m.; and Friday and Saturday December 13-14 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, December 15 at 5 p.m. Tickets are $20 and $25 and can be purchased by calling 410-504-5398 or visit: www.ArtsCentric.net.