J. A. Di Bello’s Review of It’s a Wonderful Life

Shadowland Stages

December 8, 2019

Ellenville

“Ding” – Hear the sound of a bell ?

     The word is rapidly spreading up and down Canal Street, over the Gunks and through the hollows. Those in this prestigious tri-county area know Brendan Burke, AD and Director at Shadowland Stages, Ellenville is responsible: Clarence has been sighted cavorting about the Village.  

Director Burke has directed and placed on Shadowland’s Mainstage, a convincing It’s a Wonderful Life. Originally a screen play by nonother than Frank Capra, et al. and adapted for stage by Joe Landry. This thought-provoking production is a radio play “broadcast live” from the studios of WQNR, AM, in New York City. These noble efforts delivered a nostalgic, feel-good Christmas Eve fantasy to an appreciative, i.e., standing ovation, audience, assembled at the Shadowland Theatre.  

Living in Bedford Falls, NY, is this play’s noted protagonist, George Bailey. He is vividly and compellingly brought to the stage by Justin Pietropaolo, a returning Shadowland favorite. Justin is a proud graduate of Goshen High School and Alfred University, where as a younger man, he became a well-known figure at the Miller Performing Arts Center, which includes the C. D. Smith Flexible Theatre, an intimate, experimental theatre and the Rod Brown Studio, an acting and directing rehearsal hall. Brown, like Smith, was a key part of AU's “golden age of drama in the 1950s and 1960s.” Further and for purposes of disclosure, C. D. Smith and Rod Brown were professors of this writer.

A compelling actor and breathing vitality into her character is an appealing Ally Farzetta, as Mary, George’s devoted wife and confidant. She’s engaging as she holds the stage with an undeniable force. Ally, it should be noted is a proud graduate of SUNY, New Paltz and is making her Shadowland debut in this exceptional production of It’s a Wonderful Life.

Not to be diminished is the real “hero” of this heart-warming drama, with a lesson that frequently carries demoralizing issues and overpowering values. And brining these issues to the very edge of the footlights is the Clarence mentioned above, portrayed here by a multi-talented, totally engaging Robert Anthony Jones. You see, Clarence is divinely inspired. He is an angel, who has been assigned by Heaven to oversee the trials of a “good man,” George Bailey, who has lost his way. As mentioned, Clarence’s task teeters on the brink of disbelief, as he brilliantly shows George an alternate timeline. So phenomenal is this stroke of brilliant creativity, Clarence, as a Guardian Angel in training is rewarded with his WINGS ! “Ding” – Hear the sound of a bell?

Supporting with unbridled enthusiasm, while portraying multiple parts as well as foley details are Michael Irvin Pollard, as the radio announcer, and a returning Emma Currie Smith as an equally attractive and convincing suitor of George’s affection, Mary’s competition. With an equal amount of fervor and talent is an eager Kate McMorran, on the piano and additional sound effects.

Costume design by Christina English is period appropriate and most attractive. Complementing the Shadowland team with appropriate and mood-appropriate lighting is Jeremy Johnson.

It’s a Wonderful Life will continue its run at Shadowland Stages through December 22. Tickets and additional information is available at the box office 845-647-5511, or on line at https://shadowlandstages.org/box-office/

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