Zimmerman’s ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ opens Friday; story inspired lead to make stage debut

Parker Sturlaugson as George Bailey meets Carly Nelson as Clara, Angel Third Class. George is very distraught, but Clara's cheery view of his life convinces him to carry on. (Photos by Bruce Strand)

Parker Sturlaugson as George Bailey meets Carly Nelson as Clara, Angel Third Class. George is very distraught, but Clara’s cheery view of his life convinces him to carry on. (Photos by Bruce Strand)

 

by Bruce Strand, Arts editor

When he heard that “It’s a Wonderful Life” would be Zimmerman’s fall play, ZHS junior Parker Sturlaugson decided to pursue a long-deferred ambition.

“I’ve thought about trying out for a play for years, but I was always busy with something else,” said Sturglaugson, whose activities include drumming for the school band and playing tennis with Elk River-Zimmerman.

Romance blooms between George and Mary (xxxx) at a swimming pool.

Romance blooms between George and Mary (Marissa Luing) at a swimming pool.

Like most Americans for several generations, the teenager was enamored by the uplifting 1946 Jimmy Stewart movie about a despairing, frustrated small-town businessman rescued from suicide by a kindly, quirky angel who showed him how profound an impact he’d had people’s lives.

“So I went out, hoping that I’d have the opportunity to play George,” said Sturlagson, who indeed landed the Stewart role of George Bailey.

The stage rookie has a good handle on the character, said director Jon Palashewski.

“He performs with all of his heart and really takes on the role,” said Palashewski, also impressed with his lead player’s energy in a role where he’s almost always on stage.

Clarence the Angel Third Class in the film is Clara in the ZHS play, portrayed with child-like enthusiasm by senior Carly Nelson, a veteran of about 10 productions.

“I can’t be Clarence, so I want to make Clara more childish and fun-loving, and of course very eager to help George,” Nelson said.

Another interesting twist for Clara: She is dressed in late 19th-century thrift-shop lace and frills, even though the actual time frame is 1940s. “We want to make her more ghostly, from an earlier time,” said Nelson.

Nelson takes some credit for helping recruit Sturlaugson: I’ve been bugging him for years to do a  play, because he has lots of charisma and he’s good at everything he does.”

Marissa Luing plays Mary Hatch, George’s sweetheart. Josh Freeman plays George as a boy, and Jessica Hodge plays his mother. Ryan Olson is bow-tied, overmatched Uncle Billy, whom George helps to try to save their business from an onslaught by heartless banker and slumlord Mr. Potter, played by Vince Snyder.

The cast also includes Jonah Skrove, Chase Laxdal, Alexa Muylaert, Cassy Boucher, Andrew Vey, Aiden Estridge, Abbi Wisness, Trista Miller, Aaron Koch, Andrew Ruether, Alexis Larson, Jace Pink, Keely DeYounge, Deanna Schultz, Brandon Schnellman, Josie Janu and Anna Lokhorst.

No bleachers

For the first time, the audience will be seated on the “cafeterium” floor, with some scenes enacted right in their midst. ZHS has no stage, so plays are conducted at the edge of the cafeteria. Pull-out bleachers have been used, but viewing from the outer edges is awkward, so Palashewski is trying out a new concept.

George argues with arch rival Mr. Potter (Vince Snyder). Potter's assistant is xxxx.

George argues with arch rival Mr. Potter (Vince Snyder). Potter’s assistant is played by Abbi Wisness.

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