A tale of a man trying to rally for his family while not falling prey to despair is relatable to audiences today as it was in 1946 when the film "It's a Wonderful Life" was released. Relive the classic holiday tale in the theatrical version opening Friday at The Empty Space.
Danielle Rodriguez and Bob Kempf, who shared directing duties, said they are both fans of the Frank Capra classic.
"Watching the movie is a tradition for my family," Rodriguez wrote in an email. "I've seen it more than any other film. I was excited to share the story in a different way with audiences."
Both said film fans will find some fresh takes in this adaptation.
Even with the new staging, Rodriguez assured that "the famous moments are all there."
Kempf added, "Audiences might be surprised to see how we squeezed the story onto the small Empty Space stage."
Other changes involve some characters, Kempf said, with playwright/adaptor James W. Rodgers combining certain characters and giving some new occupations or relationships.
Overall the play follows the original plot. Toiling under years of family obligation, George Bailey (Nick Ono) finds himself on the brink of despair until the arrival of his guardian angel, Clarence (Jeremiah Heitman), who shows him what the world would be like if he'd never been born.
Nancee Steiger plays George's wife, Mary, and Mackenzie Zander, Landon Antongiovanni and Lilah Antongiovanni are their children.
Rodriguez said she enjoyed directing this cast.
"I'm excited that we have so many new faces in the show," she wrote. "Several people, including some kids, are making their Empty Space debuts in 'It's a Wonderful Life.'"
Kempf, who also plays George's absent-minded Uncle Billy in the show, said he was glad to team with Rodriguez to direct.
His co-director also valued their collaboration: "Our working relationship changed all the time, depending on what was needed," she wrote. "Bob has directed a lot more than I have, so it was good to have him around."
With every local theater putting on a different holiday show, the directors agreed theirs is probably the most serious.
"But it's still full of humor and charm," Kempf said. "I like that all these shows in town touch upon a different side of the holiday experience."