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REVIEW: “It’s a Wonderful Life 2020”—Ophelia’s Jump Productions

Updated: Dec 26, 2020

“Remember, No Man is a Failure if He Has Friends!”

What does one do the day after Christmas? All the presents are opened. Half the turkey is gone, and there’s nowhere you need to be Saturday evening but sprawled out half asleep in your favorite chair nibbling leftovers.

A better question right now is—what is life actually like as an Angel Second Class? If those thoughts are giving you anxiety, and you know it can’t be that midnight raid on the fridge last night, you can find out firsthand by streaming "It's a Wonderful Life 2020" Saturday night at 7pm from Ophelia’s Jump website, a show still going strong through December 27th!

“It's a Wonderful Life” started out in 1946 as an American Christmas fantasy drama film, produced and directed by Frank Capra. The film starred James Stewart as George Bailey, a man who has given up his dreams to help others. As a young man he dreamt of shaking the dust from his shoes and traveling to far-off lands, but one thing and then another keeps him at home—especially his responsibility to the family savings and loan association, which is the only thing standing between Bedford Falls and the greed of Mr. Potter (Frank Minano), the avaricious local investment banker.

George marries his high school sweetheart (after a few stumbles), settles down to raise a family, and helps half the town with their finances. Then, when George takes the fall for some misplaced funds, it looks like the evil Potter has won. Standing on a bridge about to jump, Christmas Eve brings about the intervention of George’s guardian angel, Clarence Odbody. Clarence soon shows George how he has touched the lives of many others and how different life would be in his community of Bedford Falls if he had not been born.

Several musical stage adaptations of the Capra film were produced decades later—a version performed at the University of Michigan in 1986, with subsequent revivals; a high school play adaptation was written by James M. Rodgers, and follows a storyline similar to “A Christmas Carol,” with George going back through major moments in his life. And, in 1998, another adaptation, entitled “It’s a Wonderful Life—The Musical,” written by Bruce Greer and Keith Ferfuson, was produced in Dallas, Texas, which has become the most commonly performed version.

Philip Grecian's 2006 radio play, “It's a Wonderful Life: The Radio Play,” which recreates it as a 1946 live radio broadcast, is also a faithful adaptation and now in its third incarnation, and has been popular in smaller theatre settings. In fact, Ophelia’s Jump produced this version as their 2019 annual offering to much acclaim. Of all the changes that the pandemic has brought to the theater, predominantly calamitous, of course, it is the annual OJP production of “It’s a Wonderful Life” that is the most potent symbol of resilience.

Adapted and Directed by Beatrice Casagran (OJP Producing Artistic Director), the Technical Director is Sheila Malone, and Original Music Composer is Janette Combs (who also plays Mrs. Bailey), and all contribute greatly in bringing a heartwarming and timely tale of overcoming trials and finding a new lease on life with family and friends back to a full happy circle. Veritably, Ophelia’s Jump has once again taken Joe Landry’s stage adaptation of this beloved Frank Capra classic and given it a wonderful makeover, resulting in a perfect gift for the community and memorable theatre that will melt your heart.

Featuring a diverse cast including Michelle Schaefer as Violet, A Deaf person with a hearing loss (all performances will feature sign language); Caitlin Lopez, who portrays Clarence, the angel in search of his wings; Frank Minano, as Mr. Potter, whose mission in life seems to be snuffing out all that is good; and Judd Johnson, who takes over the iconic role of George Bailey.

You may have seen Mr. Johnson in a number of previous OJP productions, including “Macbeth,” “Honky,” “Eurydice” and “The Electric Baby.” He is one of the smoothest actors around as our hero George, who, when facing financial ruin, wishes he were never born. When that wish is granted, he understands how many lives he has touched and undergoes a Scrooge-like awakening that is not to be missed.

"Playing George has always been a dream role and I'm excited to be back with Ophelia's Jump. Everyone can relate to the journey George goes through and I'm grateful to be included with a diverse cast that represents the world we live in."—Judd Johnson

Also featured are Lauren Bell Nagy as Maria Hernandez Bailey, Randy Lopez as Joseph, and Tommy Franklin juggling the roles of Peter Bailey and Uncle Billy; Nigel Tutt portrays Harry Bailey, Kyle Sammy is Ernie and Ashley Panduro represents various Ensemble.

Ophelia's Jump is a non-profit regional theatre company based in Claremont and performing in Claremont and Upland. Ophelia's Jump Productions was founded by artists and educators who believe that the purpose of theatre is to create unending conversations, spark imagination, incite conscience, and elicit a visceral response.

All the plays this year have been presented on a pay what you can basis. Your donations have helped pay artists during this prolonged shutdown. Now, a generous donor has set a $5000 challenge. All contributions through December 31, 2020 will be matched dollar for dollar. Your contribution will be doubled! Please give today to support community based theatre! Ophelia’s Jump is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization #46-2581112.

If you are feeling disconsolate this holiday season...isolated, plain old lonely, this show will make you feel less so, even if just for a few minutes. “It’s a Wonderful Life 2020” is a funny, updated theatrical adaptation with all the heart of the original, and will continue streaming 12/26 at 7pm and 12/27 at 5pm. Pay what you can! Tix and info at or call 909 734-6565.

Chris Daniels

Arts & Entertainment Reviewer

The Show Report


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