It’s a Wonderful Life … in Middlebury

MIDDLEBURY — We all know It’s a Wonderful Life, the 1940s Christmas film. Some of us look forward to it every year, others, well, been-there-done-that, right? Wrong. This weekend the Middlebury Actors Workshop brings It’s a Wonderful Life to the Town Hall Theater’s stage and it doesn’t look anything like the classic you saw on TV. 
There will be five actors, one pianist and one sound technician on stage. The actors will perform the entire show (with over 40 characters), Sam Hurlburt will be creating all the sound effects (he gets bonus points for only using materials that would have been available in the ‘40s) and Randall Pierce will be on keys, adding a live soundtrack.
Haley Rice, the Town Hall Theater operations manager, is directing MAW for the first time this year. Though she’s been an actor in too many plays to remember, Rice can count the number of times she’s directed on two hands.
“I love working with really good actors,” Rice said. “It’s fun to see what they come up with… It’s like Christmas all the time, every day they bring something new.”
And Rice, has picked some good ones. 
George Bailey is played by Robert Harte, screenwriter, actor and former cast member of “One Life to Live.” Prolific Vermont actress Karen Lefkoe, who will star in Vermont Stage’s upcoming play Blackberry Winter,plays Mary. Shakespeare and Co. actor and THT’s esteemed education director Lindsay Pontius plays siren Violet Bick and many others. Paul Schnabel, a seasoned actor who played the title role in Richard III and Duncan in Macbeth for Middlebury Actors Workshop, shifts gears to play Clarence the Angel among other characters. MacArthur Stine, Second City alum and stand-up comic, also plays many diverse characters, including host Freddie Filmore and the play’s villain, Henry Potter. 
Plus the sound-guy, Hurlburt, has come up with all the sound effects — be proud, he’s an Addison County native and an ART grad (1999). “It’s interesting visually for the audience,” said Hurlburt, “and it adds a very authentic sound and feel to the show.”
One of the stranger things Hurlburt will be using are cornflakes on a cookie sheet to imitate shoes crunching in snow. Yup, it’s creative and awesome.
“This is a beautiful piece,” said Rice. “It’s life-affirming in such a charming way, and I feel we all need that right now. It’s a Wonderful Life shows us the bigger picture of our lives ? how many lives we touch without even knowing. It’s the antidote to the current political climate where lies, bullying and greed seem to be the norm. In Bedford Falls, friendships are more valuable than money and the good guys ultimately win. I want to live in that world.”
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