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November 29, 2012

A holiday classic: Civic Players to present "It's a Wonderful Life"

Area couple to portray George and Mary Bailey.

LOGANSPORT — Standing on a bridge, a distraught George Bailey bemoans the life he’s lived, declaring that the world would have been better if he were never born.

That statement is repeatedly contradicted during the almost two-hour play “It’s a Wonderful Life,” as George’s family, friends and guardian angel show him examples of his good deeds. During this weekend’s production, the actors hope to remind the audience to follow George’s selfless example.  

The Christmas classic presented by the Civic Players of Logansport and the Logansport Performing Arts Council features 26 cast members, including four children.

Director Ted Denton, who holds a theater degree and has been a director for more than 30 years, said he jumped at the chance to bring one of his favorite shows to the area.

“I’ve always loved this show,” he said.

Because many of the cast members are experienced actors, Denton said, they’ve been able to move beyond line memorization and into the motivations of the characters.

“We’ve had more of a chance to work on the subtext,” Denton said.

The show is also a favorite among cast members, many of whom see their own personality traits in their characters.

The audience may recognize Jeff Carnagua, who plays George Bailey, after his starring roles of the title character in “Nerd,” Finnian in “Finninan’s Rainbow” and most recently the part of Henry Higgins in a Kokomo production of “My Fair Lady.” Carnagua, who works at Grissom Air Reserve Base by day, said he decided to take up acting and had been in more than 40 shows in the area since 2000.

The show is one of Carangua’s favorite movies and he said he’s beginning to understand the intricacies of playing a character like George.

“It’s kind of hard to play George because he’s supposed to be a fairly normal guy who makes the right decisions,” Jeff said.

Jeff is starring opposite his wife in real life, Michelle Carnagua, who plays George’s wife, Mary Bailey. Michelle said she and Jeff met at a Civic Players production of “Hello, Dolly.”

“This is the first time we’ve gotten to be romantic leads together,” she said.

In addition to working beside her real-life husband, Michelle said she feels close to her character, who is also working to raise a family.

“The similarities between Mary and Michelle are very close,” Michelle said.

John Kirk, who plays George’s brother, Harry Bailey, can also relate to his character. A Peru native, he said he feels the same adventurous spirit as Harry, who declares he wants to travel the globe.

“Just like George, I wanted to see the world,” Kirk said.

With colorful strings tied on his fingers so he won’t forget things, Peter Noakes is giving a nod to the film depiction of his character, Uncle Billy, who puts the play in motion.

“Uncle Billy is kind of a crackpot,” Noakes said. But, he adds, “his heart’s in the right place.”

The play also incorporates elements of the movie into its staging, with opening credits closely resembling the movie.

Producer Ralph Anderson said he pushed for a staging of the show after he found that some of the essential props could be taken from former productions, like the bridge from the Logansport High School Winter Fantasy production “A Christmas Carol.”

“A bridge is a must for this show,” Anderson said.

The cast has been preparing for 10 weeks and has strictly adhered to a two-hour maximum of rehearsing, three days a week, Denton said.

“I’m a pretty disciplined director,” Denton said.

As they work to fine-tune the sound effects and lighting, Denton said he believes the cast is ready for a show.

“They’ve been ready for some time now. They just need an audience,” he said.

Caitlin Huston is a staff reporter of the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at 574-732-5148 or caitlin.huston@pharostribune.com.

WANT TO GO?

What: “It’s a Wonderful Life” presented by Civic Players of Logansport

When: 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday and 7 p.m. Sunday

Where: McHale Performing Arts Center, 1 Berry Lane

Cost: Tickets are $15 and can be purchased at the McHale box office.

For more information: Call the box office at 574-753-4116.

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