November 2021
Bedford Falls Comes to Prescott
It’s a Wonderful Life at YCPAC

Strange, isn’t it? Each person’s life touches so many other lives, when he isn’t around it leaves a real hole, doesn’t it?”

So says second-class angel Clarence Oddbody in the 1946 movie It’s a Wonderful Life. This now iconic Christmas movie was first adapted by Frances Goodrichand Albert Hackett from the 1943 short story “The Greatest Gift” by Philip Van Doren Stern. The release date for this Frank Capra film was on December 20, 1946, to a postwar country. Although it received five Oscar nominations, it didn’t become the holiday tradition it is now till the copyright expired in the 1970s and TV stations began to play it during the holiday season. It consistently ranks among the top 40 films in American film history. This 78-year-old story holds up. Fast-forward to 2006 to find the Capra movie version adapted for musical theatre by Thomas M. Sharkey, and that is where our story begins.

This Christmas season the Yavapai College Performing Arts Center will be presenting the musical It’s a Wonderful Life. I sat down with co-director Heather Scott, Scottie to her familiars ,and I asked her why this play, why now, and why does this story continue to hold up? After all, things certainly are very different now them they were in 1943. Or are they?

Scottie is quite a treasure to our small community. Her background is in classical theatre. She did her undergrad degree at ASU under Marshal Mason and received her MFA from Brande is University. When the opportunity to come home to Arizona and work in Prescott came up in 2019, she was happy to return home. She loves living and working in our mountain community. Scott is co-directing this production with Dr. Craig Ralston. She is also grateful for the technical expertise and creative input of Nathan Patterson, YCPAC technical coordinator.

In her answer to the ‘why-now’ question, Scottie says the goal of this production is not only to entertain and inspire, but to really represent the depth of George’s struggle. Scott contends that the allegory of the everyman struggle holds up over time because it is authentic. The challenges of personal sacrifice and good vs evil are pre-Shakespearian and even Biblical, and speak to our collective humanity. Scott points out that people are still struggling as we make our way through the pandemic, and hopes that the audience will relate to the sacrifices that George makes in his small town the way we have in ours.

Scott also reflects on the desire to work toward keeping our young people here in Prescott and creating a community that can offer that option through education and development, much like the choice George makes in the story. She hopes that audience members will see themselves in the character and appreciate the conflict he faces and the role his community plays in his restoration and healing. After touring the shop with Scottie where the set is being built, I was able to see how she, Ralston and Patterson will relay their vision for the show. It promises to be a visual feast. I was also allowed a sneak peek at the voice and dance rehearsals. I think we are in for some very fine theatre this December.

In answer to my questions at the start of this inquiry, your ticket at YCPAC this December 16-19 will provide you with a post-Covid theatre experience of what Scottie calls “this beautiful dance of creation. ”We will see an everyman struggle through an unfair crisis despite best intentions and efforts, and then watch him overcome that crisis and learn about the value of even one life through his community.

Is it just me, or does this story sound timely? It’s curious, isn’t it, that our courthouse covered in snow and lit for Christmas often makes one think of Bedford Falls.

Laine Murphy is a local writer covering the arts in Prescott. Photos by Laine.

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