Theater Review: Armory’s A Wonderful Life an outstanding musical adaptation

By Edith McCauley

Theater Critic

Adapted from the Frank Capra film, It’s a Wonderful Life, Janesville Armory’s musical version reaches a level of excellence seldom seen on stage. Director/Choreographer Scott Michaels and Musical Director Thomas N. Stirling join to bring audiences a memorable theater experience. Too often, musical adaptations of familiar plays and documentaries are not successful. Grey Gardens is a recent example. Based on the lives of a mother and daughter living in the past, the music did not make sense, nor did it enhance the story.

A Wonderful Life with its fine cast, spectacular set, and an orchestra unmatched in any venue, could be playing in any major theater in the country. Brandon Springman is the loyal son and father who sacrifices his dreams to save his small community from financial disaster. His opening song,
George’s Prayer,

displays his vocal and emotional talent. Caroline Kobylarz, his loving wife, Mary, is equally gifted. Her every number exemplifies the beauty of her voice and the ability to develop a character dramatically. The cast of 21, who play multiple roles, supports the leads without a flaw. In the movie version of the story, Clarence, George’s guardian angel, plays a major role. With Scott Ehle as Matthew, Kieron Cindric’s comedic Clarence is not one we recognize.

The Armory continues to provide fine entertainment and well-prepared food. The service staff is unmatched. Scott Michaels is a new addition to the staff of The Armory. His extensive experience as a choreographer and director makes Producer Mick Gilbertson’s choice a wise one. Music Director Thomas N. Stirling is from Chicago, and A Wonderful Life is his fourth production here. He has spent the last four years working with Michaels at the Wagon Wheel Theatre in Warsaw, Ind. They mesh well.

The 2010 season begins Jan. 15 with the Tony Award winner, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. I’ve not seen the show and look forward to the new season. A Wonderful Life runs through Dec. 20, and will provide family entertainment for the holidays. For ticket information, call (608) 741-7400 or (866) 995-7400 or visit Highly recommended!!!

From the November 11-17, 2009 issue

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