By this point—like, 72 years after the original film’s release—we know the story. George Bailey is having a rough time, and thinking of ending it all. On Christmas no less. As he toes the edge of a bridge in the small everytown of Bedford Falls, something happens. And soon we are introduced to Clarence, George's guardian angel, who shows him what life would be like if he'd never been born. And we learn about how every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings. You know the drill.
This classic film—It's a Wondeful Life, if you haven't guessed yet—was an obvious candidate for stage adaptation. At the onset of the holiday season, Albuquerque Little Theatre (224 San Pasquale SW) is premiering their own production of the classic with James Cady at the helm as director and Micah Linford playing the iconic everyman, George Bailey.
“As odd as it sounds, I've never seen the movie,” Linford said, mulling over the tale that for so long has seemed to be totally ubiquitous. “But being able to delve into the story this deeply has really given me a true appreciation of [it]. It's taught me that everyone you come in contact with affects who you are and who you will become. Even if there is someone you really don't like or who really doesn't like you, they've still helped to shape you into the person you are. And you affect those around you in the same way.” You never know what chain of events your smallest action has set into motion.
The story covers a lot of ground, and in the film iteration, introduced the world to a whole cast of characters that have become archetypes in their own right. Albuquerque Little Theatre has done those figures justice by recruiting a host of talented locals to wield the wisdom of Clarence, the vinegar of Mr. Potter and of course, the confusion and world-weariness of George.
“This is such an iconic role and show that it's hard not to be drawn to it,” Linford continued. “A lot of the roles I've played over the last couple years were darker. The idea of playing a genuinely good character who may trip up, but learns from it, was very appealing.”
As the whole team looks toward opening night on Friday, Nov. 30, I asked Linford what he had learned from being so involved with the production so far. “The director, James Cady, and I had a long conversation after one of the first rehearsals about what it would really mean to have never been born,” he described. “The smallest interaction, good or bad, can have a huge impact on a person's life. It's easy to get down on yourself when things aren't going well or to see yourself as a burden if you need to ask for help, but it's important to remember how much you mean to others.”
Catch It's a Wonderful Life until Dec. 24. Tickets are available now online at albuquerquelittletheatre.org.