The greatest gift

[attach]1054[/attach]Chances are if you’ve ever watched television in December you’ll be familiar with at least parts of the classic Frank Capra holiday film, It’s A Wonderful Life.

The tale of how George Bailey (James Stewart) recovers his Christmas spirit and saves his town with the help of an angel-in-training practically plays on a loop during the holiday season and has been widely adapted in various stage productions since its 1946 release.

But most people have never seen the musical theatre version of the story, created in 1986 by Sheldon Harnick (Fiddler on the Roof) and Joe Raposo (Sesame Street, Three’s Company).

Now Torontonians will have a chance to see the Canadian premiere in a production by The Civic Light-Opera Company at the Fairview Library Theatre.

The show opens on Dec. 9 for a 15-performance run. Fans of the original film will not be disappointed, says Joe Cascone, artistic director of the company and Wonderful’s director.

“There’s an homage to the film that people will like, but originality as well,” he says, noting “the action has been tightened.”

The director says when working with a well-known classic the biggest challenge is to remain faithful to the theme.

“It’s always a challenge not to reinvent the wheel,” Cascone says. “I’ve seen directors who have tried to be completely radical and end up alienating the audience. ”

With that in mind, Cascone says the original story and tone remain largely intact in the musical with the 18-member cast.

“I think the sentiment of the story touches people. No matter what holiday they celebrate, it’s just a universal story… I don’t think there’s anyone around who hasn’t found themselves feeling like the protagonist at some point in their lives,” Cascone says.

Whatever the attraction, ticket sales don’t lie—the first two thirds of the performances have already “sold extremely well” with some tickets remaining for the final third.

Tickets range from $25–27.50. To purchase call, 416-755-1717.