Caesar Rodney High stages ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’

(SPECIAL TO THE DELAWARE STATE NEWS PHOTOS BY GARY EMEIGH)

CAMDEN — The holiday classic “It’s a Wonderful Life” jumps from the screen to the stage this weekend at Caesar Rodney High School.

“We usually don’t pick very well-known performances because we don’t want people to have the movie in the back of their heads the whole time,” director John Muller said. “But we wanted to do a really uplifting play.”

“Uplifting” was key in the selection coming off a chaotic election season, which then cut into the number of rehearsal days the students had to prepare.

The play is using virtually the same script from the 1946 Frank Capra film, which Mr. Muller said makes it a challenge to stage.

In it, George Bailey, played by Jimmy Stewart in the movie, is a man who has given up his dreams in order to help others, and whose pending suicide on Christmas Eve brings about his guardian angel, Clarence, who shows George all the lives he has touched and how different life in his community of Bedford Falls would be had he never been born.

“It’s a Wonderful Life,” is giving most of the lead actors an opportunity to exercise a new skill set.

“Firstly, I’m playing an old man in this role and I’ve never done that before,” said senior Rita Welch, who plays crotchety Mr. Potter, the villain of the piece and the rival of George Bailey, who wants to take over the savings and loan that George runs, so he can rule the town and call it Potterville.

“And I’ve never played such a static character either. I’m always the dynamic character so it’s the opposite end of the spectrum for me.”

Sean Scanlon, a senior playing the lead role of George Bailey, said the performance is one of the more difficult ones he’s done.

“This has been a tough one,” he said. “My characters usually don’t take as much work as this. I guess I’m doing more acting than usual because this character is very unique.”

Although “It’s A Wonderful Life” is considered a staple in Christmas movie marathons, Keon O’Brien and Mason Taylor both came into casting without ever having seen the movie and the pair see it as an advantage.

“I’ve watched some bits and pieces since casting, but I think not watching the whole thing has given me the chance to make the character my own,” Keon said.

Mason watched clips without the audio so he could focus on the mannerisms of the character, Uncle Billy, the eccentric businessman, who strikes the main crisis in the story.

Not only are the actors taking on new roles, they’re acting in a different time period — the 1940s.

“The costumes have been fun and I actually just learned how to tie a bow tie for the first time a few days ago,” said junior Noah Mills, playing Clarence, the guardian angel.

“I love plays set outside this time period because it gives us the opportunity to learn,” said senior Hannah Griffith, who portrays Mrs. Bailey. “The character that you’re playing in a performance taking place in the 1940s is unlike any character that would exist today.

For the childhood scenes in the performance, CR’s theater department brought in kid actors from The Children’s Theatre based in Dover.

“It’s been really interesting to interact with the little kids,” Hannah said. “They’ve been great though, and it’s been cool to be able to offer some advice.”

“It’s a Wonderful Life” premiered Thursday night but it takes the stage in the Caesar Rodney High auditorium, 239 Old North Road, Camden, again today and Saturday at 7 p.m.

Adult tickets are $6 and seniors and students with active school IDs can purchase them for $4. They will be available at the door.

Ashton Brown is a freelance writer living in Dover.

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