Posts Tagged ‘a wonderful life’

It’s maybe not A Wonderful Life at Hillbarn Theatre

Robert Brewer as George Bailey, Joey Montes as Clarence

It’s a Wonderful Life is one of those iconic Christmas films that everyone knows and, love it or hate it, you will probably see it fifteen times this December just flipping through TV channels. It seems to be so well known and loved that no other filmmaker has even attempted to remake it. How do you improve on Jimmy Stewart, Donna Reed and Lionel Barrymore? It’s darn near impossible. But when I heard that the story of George Bailey and Bedford Falls had been remade into a musical, I definitely thought it could work.

On paper, it should work. Christmas stories, tales of love and redemption, stories involving kids and small towns, these are all ripe fodder for a classic hit musical. And I think Hillbarn Theatre could pull it off, but I am not sure this particular production was prepared to open yet.

Two great things about the production: The eight piece orchestra was fabulous, and was on stage just behind the bridge. I thought this was a great idea, and it worked well. Second, the stage design itself: The Bedford Falls bridge was built large and looming over the stage, with most of the action taking place beneath it so that you are always aware of George Bailey’s past, present and future. The angels Matthew and Clarence stood over the bridge, and there were screens above and to the side of it where the different settings were projected.

But there were several problems. The choreography, surprising for Hillbarn, was not tight and could use a lot more practice. Leaving mics off many of the background characters was understandable until they suddenly had lines and we couldn’t hear them. There were a few musical cues missed which anyone familiar with the film (most everyone) would notice.

Bailey Batti as Mary Hatch Bailey, Robert Brewer as George Bailey

But it was the songs that really need work, and this was not necessarily (but sometimes was) the fault of the cast. Some of the songs seemed unnecessary to the story, or just too long. Robert Brewer plays a fine George Bailey and Bailey Battie as Mary is lovely and has a beautiful voice, and both had no problems with most of their pieces.  But neither was up to one operatic spoken word piece that was interminable. I am not sure if the point of this song, a tense exchange between George and Mary, was to make the audience as uncomfortable as possible, but even so it went on for entirely too long.  I don’t blame Brewer or Battie for this, I think it is a production problem with the song itself that needs to be fixed.

My love for Hillbarn Theatre and their productions is well documented, and at times last night I wondered if my expectations had just been set too high for this show. But sadly this production was nowhere near the level I would usually expect. It is also entirely possible that opening night was just “one of those nights”, and the show could improve in the coming weeks. I do hope it does as I love this company, and I firmly believe they are worthy of support. I still think it is a great show for a holiday evening out, and it is perfect for kids old enough to sit through a show.

A Wonderful Life
Playing through December 19
Hillbarn Theatre
1285 East Hillsdale Blvd.
Foster City

December show round-up

December is a lighter month in terms of scheduled shows, but that just makes it easier to attend them all!
These are the shows Metblogs plans to attend and review this month:

Backwards in High Heels
The San Jose Repertory Company
November 24 – December 19
The remarkable life of the legendary actress Ginger Rogers comes to life onstage!
This intimate musical dances its way through Ginger’s life with unforgettable music, show-stopping dance numbers and a captivating story that chronicles her journey from hometown to Hollywood and from one love affair to another. Best known as Fred Astaire’s dance partner, Ginger defied her overly-protective mother to become one of Hollywood’s biggest stars and one of the industry’s first women to demand equal pay. Funny, moving and a visual feast, Backwards In High Heels is a toe-tapping, swirling, gliding account of her ambitious public and private life.

A Wonderful Life (Musical)

A Wonderful Life (MUSICAL)
Hillbarn Theatre
December 2 – 19
Frank Capra’s film classic has been brought to vibrant theatrical life through the remarkable collaboration of Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winner Sheldon Harnick and Grammy and Emmy Award-winner Joe Raposo. The story of George Bailey and his wonderful life in Bedford Falls remains a timeless fable of dreams, disillusionment and the power of love. An uplifting chronicle of the extraordinary lives of ordinary folk, A Wonderful Life exhilarates the mind and heart as it celebrates the innate goodness in us all.  Memorable songs include One of the Lucky Ones, In a State and Christmas Gifts.

San Jose Short Film Festival
Camera 3 Cinemas
December 9, 11, 12
If you can’t wait for Cinequest 21 to begin (March 1) here is a great festival that will feed your film hunger: Presented by Emerging Artist Productions, the Second Annual San Jose Short Film Festival is dedicated to honoring and promoting short films while providing an outlet where local and national filmmakers, scriptwriters and all-around movie mongers can showcase their creative talent.

Ballet San Jose
December 11 – 26
I don’t believe we will be attending this show, but no Holiday show list is complete without mentioning our own beautiful Nutcracker ballet.   This triumphant tale of Maria and her beloved nutcracker will delight audiences, young and old alike.  The theater itself is a wonderland of surprises, replete with lavish lobby decorations, a boutique of ballet and holiday treasures, choirs singing carols, the “Pocket Lady” passing out free toys, and characters from the show posing for photos and patrons.  A Not-to-be-Missed Treasure of the Season, and a Gift for the Holidays!


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