FRANKLIN, Tenn. – Studio Tenn Theatre Company debuts a new Christmas production this year, combining the cherished nostalgia of an iconic screen classic with the magic and immediacy of live theater – It’s A Wonderful Life runs Dec. 4-21 at Jamison Hall in The Factory at Franklin.
A first for Studio Tenn, this production replaces A Christmas Carol, which has drawn record attendance and wide acclaim for the last four years. “While we’re very proud of that show, we feel we reached a pinnacle that warranted taking a break from it for a while,” says company Managing Director Jake Speck. “It’s time to give our patrons something new for Christmas.”
That “something” calls for renewed ambition and an appetite for challenge, explains Artistic Director Matt Logan. “It’s a Wonderful Life is, of course, one of the most beloved movies of all time, and a holiday institution unto itself,” he says. “Our charge is to create an invigorating first-hand experience of the story which still honors its familiar original form”–the endearing and enduring 1946 Frank Capra film starring Jimmy Stewart.
“Appealing to audiences of television and film is part of a larger movement in the theater,” Logan said. “Screens are so pervasive in our modern age that video dominates our culture to a profound degree. This has challenged the theatre community to re-engage those audiences, but it’s also provided a wealth of creative opportunities to observe and learn from the storytelling techniques of ever-evolving media.”
Paying homage to Hollywood classics is the overarching theme of Studio Tenn’s current season, which will conclude in 2015 with The Wizard of Oz.
Rather than be intimidated by these larger-than-life blockbusters, Logan considers their core stories rich enough to explore endlessly. “There’s good reason they’ve endured for decades, and that’s what we want to reveal and celebrate.
“It’s a Wonderful Life, for example, has so effectively encapsulated the magic of the holiday season that it’s practically the definition of ‘Classic Christmas,’ even today,” Logan shares. “Studio Tenn’s production will transport the audience back to that warm-and-fuzzy mid-century world of deep Americana, while allowing the actors the chance to meaningfully mine the material.”
The cast features several returning players. Starring as George Bailey is Brent Maddox, whom Studio Tenn fans will remember from Frost/Nixon and Into the Woods. Shannon Hoppe plays Mary Bailey, Matthew Carlton is Clarence, and the company’s veteran Scrooge, Chip Arnold, is Old Man Potter. Nan Gurley is Ma Bailey, and Bella Higginbotham is Zuzu.
Tickets can be purchased online at StudioTenn.com or by calling (888) 664-6362. For more information about the company or to get involved as a sponsor, donor or volunteer, please visit StudioTenn.com.
*Photo of Brent Maddox and Shannon Hoppe as George and Mary Bailey by Anthony Matula for MA2LA courtesy Studio Tenn.