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It's a Wonderful Life” brings Christmas joy to audience

The Johnson County Community Theatre once again delighted its audience with their presentation of It’s a Wonderful Life.” The talents of the actors, young and old, novice and seasoned, brought the spirit of Christmas joy to those fortunate to have seen one of the four productions this past week.
The play opened with the sound of hushed voices sending prayers up to heaven for their husband, friend and local business owner, George Bailey. Bailey, played by Derek Visser, who has given up his dreams for others his entire life, is at the end of his rope and is about to commit suicide on Christmas Eve. Although Angel Second Class Two, Clarence Odbody, played by Michael Eggers, has been an angel for 200 years, he has yet to earn his coveted wings. Clarence is hoping that he can save George Bailey by showing him how he has touched the lives of so many people in the town of Bedford Falls and how drastically different things would have been if George had never been born. In the process, Clarence is hoping this earthly assignment will get him the prized wings.
Throughout his life, George has put the needs of others before his own. When he was 12, he saved the life of his younger brother, Harry, played by Jacob McGlamery, who had fallen through ice on a frozen pond. Consequently, George lost his hearing in his left ear. Working for a druggist as a young boy, he noticed a prescription for a young child had been erroneously filled with poison. Once again, George saved someone’s life.
George had grand dreams of traveling the world. His intent was to put his brother to work at the family business, Bailey Building and Loan, as soon as Harry graduated from high school. Life takes another twist for George Bailey. As he was talking with Mary Hatch, played by Lydia Nicholson, his Uncle Billy, played by Ray Branch, comes to inform George his father has suffered a stroke. George’s father dies, and with it his dream of visiting parts unknown.
A conniving Mr. Potter, played by Dr. Tarr, a slum lord who happens to be majority shareholder in Bailey Building and Loan, convinces the board of directors to stop giving home loans to the poor. George persuades the board to reject Potter’s idea, but they in turn agree only if George will run the business. Concerned for the people of Bedford Falls and what will happen to them, George agrees. He turns his college money over to Harry.
George and Mary marry, but as they are about to leave on their honeymoon with $2,000 cash in hand, life throws them yet another curve. Citizens of Bedford Falls are pulling their money out of Bailey Building and Loan as the news of a bank collapse spreads like wildfire. The newlyweds give their own money to keep their customers afloat. The citizens do not forget George and Mary’s kindness.
On this particular Christmas Eve, Uncle Billy is on his way to make a cash deposit of $8,000 to Mr. Potter’s bank. As Billy shows Potter the news that Harry has received the Medal of Honor, the money somehow is tangled up in the newspaper, unbeknownst to Billy. It just happens a bank examiner appeared at Bailey Building and Loan to conduct a bank audit that very day. George, frustrated and angry at the situation and how he has always had to do for others and not himself, takes his emotions out on his family.
George turns to Potter, who had just recently offered George a job at his bank. Potter turns George down and threatens to obtain a warrant for his arrest for bank fraud. It is at this point that George decides to just end it all and take his own life.
Angel Second Class Two, Clarence, decides it’s time to show George how life would have been for his friends, family and the citizens of Bedford Falls if George had never been born. A distraught George sees life where Harry died and his hometown was called Pottersville. The druggist who erroneously filled the child’s prescription with poison spent time in prison and was homeless and a drunk. With the help of Clarence, George realizes his life has helped make the difference in the lives of many.
George’s prayer to live is answered. He returns home where his family, friends and customers of the Bailey Building and Loan business are there with enough money to cover the missing funds. As George has helped so many residents of Bedford Falls throughout the years, they are there for him.
Under the direction of Kathy Terrill, each of the cast members, from those with small parts to those who seemed to appear in just about every scene did a superb job of entertaining their audience. Visser put as much heart and soul into his character as Jimmy Stewart did in the original movie production of “It’s a Wonderful Life” in 1946. His strong emotions were often breathtaking as the audience became enthralled with the characters in the play. Ray Branch delivered a very shaken Uncle Billy as he realized the money was missing and he was responsible. As always, the emotions and expressions on Michael Eggers’ face are priceless and added to his character. Nick Donchek, Lydia Nicolson, Samuel Mann, Tia Thomas, Brad Wilson, Leanne Crosswhite and The Tomahawk’s own Lacy Hilliard were first time actors for the Johnson County Community Theatre. Each of them played an important part in the success of the play and it could not have been achieved without the help of the many, those mentioned and those that were not. It takes a large number of people who put their heart and soul into a production of this caliber to make it a resounding sensation.
As for Angel Second Class, Clarence Odbody, he definitely earned his wings.