Sara King , Chandler Baker, and Edward Miskie in A Wonderful Life.
photo-Derby Dinner Playhouse


A Wonderful Life

Music by Joe Raposo
Book and Lyrics by Sheldon Harnick
Based on the film It’s A Wonderful Life
Screenplay by Francis Goodrich, Albert Hackett, Jo Swerling, and Frank Capra
From the story The Greatest Gift by Philip Van Doren Stern
Directed by Lee Buckholz

Reviewed by Craig Nolan Highley

Entire contents are copyright © 2014, Craig Nolan Highley.  All rights reserved.

There’s nothing to get you into the holiday spirit like revisiting a classic. Around this time of year, there are endless broadcasts of A Christmas Story, The Grinch, A Charlie Brown Christmas, A Christmas Carol, Miracle on 34th Street; the list goes on and on. One such classic is currently being given new life, live on stage, at the Derby Dinner Playhouse: A Wonderful Life is a joyous adaptation of the Frank Capra classic, performed with the playhouse’s typical flair.

The familiar, oft-imitated story concerns George Bailey (Edward Miskie), who repeatedly lets his own opportunities in life pass him by to allow others to succeed, and to keep his father’s business running and his hometown prospering. When he has a particularly horrible Christmas Eve, wingless angel Clarence (Cary Wiger) shows him just how much his life has touched others. It’s a story that never fails to put a lump in my throat, and it’s told well here.

The songs (by the bizarre pairing of Muppets and Sesame Street composer Joe Raposo and Fiddler on the Roof lyricist Sheldon Harnick) are mostly forgettable, but Harnick’s libretto is very faithful to the film and keeps the story focused. Performances are strong across the board, with some particularly nice work by Miskie and Wiger, along with a lovely turn by Sara King as George’s devoted and long suffering love interest Mary.

The vocals are uniformly full and robust; a testament to the strong music direction by Scott Bradley. Lee Buckholz has staged the whole thing very cleverly with the use of raised platforms representing various locations and Heather Fulsom’s choreography is kept nicely simple this time around, wisely allowing the story to outshine the spectacle.

The only real complaint I have with the show is that I noticed some sightline issues during the bridge sequences. The raising and lowering of the set piece was a nice effect, but the way the actors were staged within it made it difficult to see them, at least from my vantage point. It’s worth mentioning because I’ve never had that problem in a DDP production before.

This really is a beautiful show, however, and judging by the packed house on the night I attended, tickets are going fast. If you are looking for the perfect holiday entertainment, get your reservations sooner rather than later!

Featuring Chandler Baker, Kyle Braun, Matthew Brennan, Brittany Carricato Cox, Kevin Crain, Cami Glauser, Jim Hesselman, Lem Jackson, Sara King, Debbie King-Raque, Elizabeth Loos, Edward Miskie, Justin Ostergood, John Payonk, Kayla Peabody, Jillian Prefach, Adam Raque, John Vessels, Katelyn Webb, Cary Wiger, and Payton Wyatt.

A Wonderful Life

November 18 – December 31, 2014

Derby Dinner Playhouse
525 Marriott Drive
Clarksville, IN 47129


Craig Head Shot[box_light]Craig Nolan Highley has been active in local theatre as an actor, director and producer for more than 12 years. He has worked with Bunbury Theater, Clarksville Little Theatre, Finnigan Productions, Louisville Repertory Company, Savage Rose Classical Theatre Co., and WhoDunnit Murder Mystery Theatre among others. He has been a member of the Wayward Actors Company since 2006, and currently serves as their Board President. Craig’s reviews have also appeared in TheatreLouisville and Louisville Mojo[/box_light]