Familiar tale: Bedford Falls, George Bailey coming to ERHS stage in ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’

Cast members including (from left) Cara Fromm, Alicia Brady, Alex McCormick and Maddie O’Connor, listen to a critique from director Michelle Brooks. (Photo by Bruce Strand)

by Bruce Strand, Arts editor

Almost everyone has seen the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life,” the 1940 Jimmy Stewart classic that pops up on several TV channels every December. Most of us have enjoyed it multiple  times.

Not so Michelle Brooks, the new Elk River High School director who happens to be directing the stage version of this story, opening next week.

The debut will be Tuesday at 4 p.m. for a senior citizens audience. (Not Monday as previously noted).

“I have never seen it on TV myself,” said Brooks. “I think about half the cast has not seen the movie.”

Noah Gilbertson, as young George Bailey, comforts his employer, played by Katherine Pysick, whom he just saved from a tragic mistake, in a scene at practice. (Photo by Bruce Strand)

Which she regards as a plus.

“I would not want (seeing the movie) to color my direction of the play,” said Brooks, “and the cast can bring its own interpretation, too.”

Brooks directed this play before, at Spring Lake Park. Because she got hired late in the summer at ERHS,  with  less time to organize than usual, she chose one she’s done before.

“It’s a family classic, and a great holiday play, with a timeless message,” Brooks said. “You’ll have a good time if you come.”

Along with a new director it’s largely a new-look cast, as a strong group of actors graduated in 2011 and two talented seniors are taking PSEO classes and aren’t available.

Michelle Brooks

Primary roles are held by students who’ve had  stage experience but haven’t been featured before, and many actors will be making their “varsity” debuts.

Alex McCormick has the lead role George Bailey, the good-hearted loan officer at a small-town bank who becomes despondent, blaming himself when things start going awry in Bedford Falls. Bridgette Hulse plays the “angel third class” who tries to cheer George up by showing him how hard life for his friends and family would have been had he never been born.

Alex Doebler plays the devious banker Potter. Cara Fromm plays Mary, who becomes George’s wife. Adam Habarneh is Uncle Billy, who helps George fight Potter.

The play, set in 1940, is about two hours long, in two acts.



At Zabee Theater, Elk River High School

Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Nov. 3-4-5, at 7 p.m.

Thursday, Nov. 10, at 7 p.m.

Saturday, Nov. 12, at 1:30 and 7 p.m.

The cast

George Bailey: Alex McCormick … Clara (the angel): Bridgette Hulse … Grower: Katherine Pysick … Young George: Noah Gilbertson … Harry Bailey: Bridger Smith … Ma Bailey: Elizabeth Brady …  Aunt Tilly: Autumn Laniel … Violet: Alicia Brady … Bert: Lucas Laniel …Ernie: Sami Turcotte … Uncle Billy: Adam Habarneh … Mary Hatch: Cara Fromm … Potter: Alex Doebler … Secretary: Emily Kliewer … Mrs. Hatch: Kelsey Wakeman … Sam (voice): Lucas Laniel … Miss Andrews: Kelsey Wakeman … Mrs. Thompson: Maddie O’Connor … Mr. Martini: Brady Murphy … Mrs. Martini: Hope Martindale … Newspaper boy: Lucas Laniel … Miss Carter: Amanda Mayne … Mr. Welch: Noah Gilbertson … Janie (Bailey’s daughter): Savannah Hulse … Pete (Bailey’s son): Andrew Bronshteyn … Owen (Bailey’s son): Owen Pedersen … Townspeople: Jeremah Tuscotte, Olivia Fromm