As they celebrate 30 years of performances in Rolla, Ozark Actors Theatre ushers in the holiday season with a muscial spin on a classic favorite. Faces familiar to the OAT stage along with new favorites came together Thursday night, Nov. 11 to open the musical adaptation of “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
Translated onto score and stage from the 1946 film starring James Stewart and Donna reed, the show features the characters fans of the original film remember, brought to life by local actors
The show begins with an eerie opening number as we see OAT’s interpretation of the classic scene of George Baily contemplating the worth of his life. The first thing audience members might notice is the lighting design, an element that often goes unnoticed. Along with a minimalist set, the show’s design uses a cold light to not only give the feeling of the winter season, but to create the illusion the audience is staring at an old photograph, bringing them back in time to experience the show.
George Baily himself is played by Nick Schaeffler, whom audience members might remember from his recent appearance in “Arsenic and Old Lace.” In his previous role, Schaeffler boasted high energy and comedic movements, and as George Bailey, Schaeffler transfers that energy into a more solemn passion. We see a glimpse of a character that is both unhappy and caring, and Schaeffler plays both in an excellent fashion.
Schaeffler is joined by Lauren Werkmeister, who also played across him in “Arsenic.” This time Werkmeister portrays Mary Hatch Bailey, a fountain of positivity that cleverly balances the character of George Bailey. Audience members familiar with the Cedar Street Playhouse can once again look forward to Werkmeister’s wonderful singing voice and enthusiasm.
Bethany Pfeifer brings another layer of musical talent to the cast as Violet Peterson. Pfeifer’s voice hearkens back to the classic sound of the time and adds a vintage layer to the show.
Henry Potter, the show’s antagonist is played by Jamey Pellegrini, and while audience members might hate they character, they’ll love how Pellegrini plays him. With a powerful voice and a gleefully wicked smile, Pellegrini makes for an enjoyable villian.
In contrast is Clarence Odbody, the familiar Angel Second Class, played by Lanin Thomasma, who immediately endears the audience to him with not only his voice but warm portrayal of his character.
The cast is rounded out by community members of all ages, with Steve Skelton as Uncle Billy and Nathan Pfeifer as Harry Bailey. The full cast is more than able to blend together in song while still making themsevles stand out as distinct characters.
All in all, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” by Ozark Actors Theatre makes for an excellent way to welcome the holidays. Theatre lovers can enjoy a classic favorite with fresh faces from around the community.