I was having the mean reds pretty bad the last day or so…you know, feeling crumby and cooped up and alone, and would it KILL you people to comment once in a while? *ahem* Anyways, I’ve been feeling pretty useless. So really, there wasn’t much better timing for the Gladstone’s stage-radio production of IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE to come along.
I bundled up in my newly-purchased gloves (I seem to lose one half of a pair every year) and kicked through the winter chill to the Gladstone Theatre (not dead yet!), to check out Tony Palermo’s adaptation of the Frank Capra Xmas classic. Hit the foyer in good time (another front trow seat for me, huzzah!), and was greeted with a smile and a Corona from that now-familiar bargal whose name I still haven’t managed to acquire, and who I still can only mentally refer to as ‘intimidatingly cute bartender’. She tells me I look like Les Claypool from PRIMUS. They’re a good band…I promise to investigate further. At least it’s a good excuse to insert this kickin’ Primus radio jam (appropriate!) of TO DEFY THE LAWS OF TRADITION:
But back to Capra! I scooted into my seat, already feeling better about things (two quick coronas will do that for you), and immediately entertained by the onstage dancing going on, getting everyone in a good’n’festive mood. I dug it, and soon enough the show proper got underway. As promised, the show was set up as a radio play, with mikes set up for the actors, a trio of singers providing musical accompaniment, and the talented Karen Benoit as onstage sound effects guru behind the scenes. A solid and talented cast got things underway, led by David Holton as George Bailey, evoking much of Jimmy Stewart’s homespun charm but never devolving into an impression. By his side was Director Teri Loretto-Valentik as Mary, alternating at will between folksy charm and quite merry overacting.
Many recent Gladstone regulars were in the show…Kel Parsons (who manages the spectacular feat of being credited as both ‘superintendant of angels’ AND ‘Jimmy the parrot’), Chris Ralph, smooth Tim Oberholzer, Michelle leBlanc, all killers on the stage. Jerome Bourgault, another regular, makes much merry as the wicked Mister Potter and several supporting characters. It IS difficult, making a live radio play visually exciting, something I was concerned about going in…but while there were a few moments where I thought they could amp it up a bit, for the most I was thoroughly tickled (and from the lengthy applause at the end, I was not alone). Cheesy and Capra-corny as it may be, IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE is, before anything else, a goddamn great script, and it shines through here, carried by the wonderful performances throughout. I was unabashedly misty during the bulk of act II. Fuck you, you’d cry too.
But it’s not over yet! Remember this is opening night, and you know what that means…FREE FOOD! Of course, we all know the Gladstone is (theoretically) in some distress, so for tonite free food meant hot dogs and crudites. But fuck it, free food is free food! And two hot dogs later, my body was actively rebelling against me, but it was worth it. As I lingered, I finally got to meet my fellow blogger Tim Oberholzer in the flesh (after seeing him onstage in 3 consecutive Gladstone shows), and he’s a merry gent indeed. We’re TOTALLY gonna be Undercurrents BFF’s. Also got to chat with actor/director Teri, mostly some bashing of the Ottawa Sun and gushing over Winston the Cat, and some plotting about Nancy Kenny’s upcoming Evolution Theatre Birthday Bash (incidentally, MY birthday is the same day, the 13th? But I’m probably gonna be at the Carleton Tavern on Sunday the 12th after 6pm, drinking and reading comix, and if you love me you’ll be there too. Just saying.)
So there’s that. And that was a good nite out, a good, fun show, and…hey, whattaya know? One Google image search later, it turns out ICB was right…I DO look like Les Claypool!
Peace, love and soul, y’all,
The Visitor (and Winston)