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This Wonderful Life

By Gary Wien

originally published: 11/24/2016

This Wonderful Life

It’s hard to imagine a discussion about Christmas movies without including It’s a Wonderful Life.   The iconic holiday film starring Jimmy Stewart has been a staple on television stations for decades.  One mention of the film likely brings up images of your favorite scene or two, but do you remember how the entire film goes? Could you imagine being on stage, retelling the entire story, while keeping each character in a separate voice?

That’s the challenge for Erica Bradshaw who was cast in This Wonderful Life, a one-person account of the film by Steve Murray being presented at Luna Stage from December 1-18.  Bradshaw has done one-person shows before, including one (White America Hero) that she wrote herself, but taking on the town of Bedford Falls is unlike anything she’s ever done before. 

“I thought it was crazy!” said Bradshaw when first presented with the idea.  “Crazy and interesting and something I wanted to do.  I was intrigued by the opportunity.”

If somehow you have never seen the film, here’s a brief description: The film tells the tale of George Bailey (played in the film by Stewart) who has bottomed out.  He’s a man that gave up on his own dreams to work for his father’s savings and loan company.  When the film begins, we see him contemplating suicide on Christmas Eve only to be “saved” by his guardian angel who gives him the gift of seeing what would have happened to his town and the people he knows if he had never been born.

Bradshaw admits she was never a big fan of the film until tackling this project.  But she is beginning to see why it became such a holiday tradition.  In addition to portraying all of the characters in the film, she also plays the narrator — offering the perspective of someone retelling a story by a campfire along with heavy dash of snark along the way.

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“I think the narrator really loves this film,” said Bradshaw.  “And also sees the flaws in it as well.  But its universal story is about the value of life and how we all get to where we are that man on a bridge alone on Christmas Eve; and all we have to do is shift our perspective and see how wonderful life actually is.”

She says she is very good with voices and between the voices, costumes, and direction by Daryl L. Stewart, she will bring the story to life.  Her biggest challenge leading up to the role is time.  She’s not just preparing for one role, she’s preparing for every role while also working for NJPAC, Luna Stage, Two River Theatre, and Link Community Charter School.  She teaches theatre, creative writing, and has a Poetic Justice residency.  In other words, she’s quite busy.

“There’s so much universality,” she continued. “George’s big thing is that he just wants to leave town.  He has this dream from a little kid and how many of us are fortunate enough to be doing our dream? Things happen and stuff changes.  I think it’s about having the dream - the hunger for the dream and then not getting the dream but finding out that life is still pretty good.”

This Wonderful LifeBradshaw is one of the fortunate few to be living her dream.  From the age of five, she says she knew she wanted to be an actor and singer - a statement caught on video by her uncle.  Acting and singing, along with teaching fine arts, is what she does.  But Bradshaw knows how fortunate she is and how difficult it is for people to see their dreams come true.  She can understand how people get to the point in which they are on that bridge.

“There’s still a journey to figure out who you are,” she added.  “I think that’s what all of our stories are always about.  We’re all trying to figure out who we are - especially at the holidays. We want to try to be our best selves and be grateful for all we have, and sometimes it’s hard to see that through all the bills and the taxes and the politics and whatever else is going on in the world.”

 This Wonderful Life runs December 1 -18 at  Luna Stage, 555 Valley Road, West Orange, NJ.


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Center Players Presents "The Emperor's New Duds"
(FREEHOLD, NJ) --  Center Players Dessert Theater will present a family-friendly production of “The Emperor’s New Duds” at Center Playhouse, 35 South St, in downtown Freehold, NJ from December 7 – 16. A musical adaptation of Hans Christian Anderson’s the “Emperor’s New Clothes,” the play was written by Bernice Garfield-Szita, who co-directed the production with Enid Bush.
Centenary Stage’s Young Performers Workshop presents 2018 Winter Festival of Shows
(HACKETTSTOWN, NJ) -- Based on the Gospel According to St. Matthew with music and new lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, Godspell is composed of various musical parables from The Gospel. Jesus Christ recruits a group of followers and teaches them various lessons through song and dance. Toward the end of the second act, the show begins to follow a more linear narrative as Jesus is betrayed by Judas and eventually crucified. Performances are Sunday, December 9 at 5:00pm; Saturday, December 15 at 8pm and Sunday, December 16 at 7:30pm.
The Shakespeare Theatre Presents "The Winter's Tale"
(MADISON, NJ) -- The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey’s concludes its 56th season with its sixth and final Main Stage production, The Winter's Tale. Last seen at The Shakespeare Theatre in 2008, Artistic Director Bonnie J. Monte directs this production of Shakespeare’s tragicomedic romance. Veteran company members Jacqueline Antaramian, Jon Barker, Erin Partin, John Keabler, Raphael Nash Thompson,Seamus Mulcahy, Patrick Toon, and Ames Adamson are among a cast of 20 actors. Performances run from December 5 to December 30. 
American Theater Group Announces Full Cast & Creative For "Tell Them I'm Still Young"
(SOUTH ORANGE, NJ) -- American Theater Group has announced the full cast and creative team for its World Premiere production of Tell Them I’m Still Young, a new play by Julia Doolittle, which will run at the South Orange Performing Arts Center from January 24 - February 3, 2019. Joining the previously announced Andre Braugher (Homicide: Life on the Streets, Men of a Certain Age, Brooklyn Nine-Nine) andMichele Pawk (Hollywood Arms, Hairspray, Mamma Mia) are Janice Amaya (Seen/Unseen) and Seth Clayton (The Madrid).
Holmdel Theatre Company Presents 'ART'
(HOLMDEL, NJ) – The Holmdel Theatre Company (HTC) will present 6 performances of Yasmina Reza’s ‘ART’  from December 7th through December 16th. Translated from French by Christopher Hampton, the play tells the story of what happens when Serge buys an expensive painting, and the reactions of his two closest friends, Marc and Yvan, to his purchase. As what begins as a discussion about the quality of the painting that Serge has purchased quickly devolves into petty jabs and personal attacks, the three men border on destroying their friendships.

Broadway’s Mandy Gonzalez LIVE! at Toms River’s Grunin Center
Broadway is in the house at Toms River, NJ’s Grunin Center for the Arts with a Fearless live concert performance by Broadway star, Mandy Gonzalez!
"The Spitfire Grill" and Caitlin Geisser Return To Their Roots
“I saw something in her that you rarely come across,” recalled Ted Wioncek III, Artistic Director at Eagle Theatre in Hammonton. “She’s more than wise beyond her years; I believe she’s going to be a game-changer and a trendsetter for this art form.”
Broadway’s Next H!T Musical LIVE! at Toms River’s Grunin Center
It’s Friday, October 26, 2018, and the Broadway’s Next H!T Musical cast is just about ready to take the stage at the Jay and Linda Grunin Center for the Arts, located on the campus of Ocean County College in Toms River, NJ.
The Last Apple Pie: "Apples In Winter" Opens At Centenary Stage
Jennifer Fawcett’s new play centers around a mother in a kitchen, doing something countless people across America will take part in over the upcoming holiday season: making an apple pie.
See Andrea McArdle LIVE! in Annie at Deal Park’s Axelrod PAC!
Leapin’ Lizards! Annie’s finally made it to the Axelrod Performing Arts Center in Deal Park, NJ, and it stars Broadway’s original Annie, Andrea McArdle, as Miss Hannigan!

Event calendar
Saturday, Nov 17, 2018


THE GAY BLADES @ The Saint, Asbury Park - 7:30pm

HERMAN'S HERMITS STARRING PETER NOONE & THE BUCKINGHAMS @ Bergen Performing Arts Center (bergenPAC), Englewood - 8:00pm

Nelson Riveros Trio: “The Latin Side of Wes Montgomery” @ Englewood Public Library, Englewood - 7:00pm

Hawaiian Music and Hula @ 1867 Sanctuary at Ewing, Ewing - 8:00pm

Pop 2000 Tour @ iPlay America, Freehold - 7:00pm

THE MACHINE PERFORMS PINK FLOYD @ The Strand Theater, Lakewood - 8:00pm


Todd Barry at SOPAC @ South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC), South Orange - 8:00pm

Swamp Boogie Trio @ Lizzie Rose Music Room, Tuckerton - 7:30pm


Annie @ Broad Street United Methodist Church, Burlington - 8:00pm

An Actor's Carol @ Cape May Stage, Cape May - 3:00pm and 7:30pm

Annie @ Axelrod Performing Arts Center, Deal Park - 2:00pm and 8:00pm

Apples In Winter @ Centenary Stage Company - Kutz Theater of the Lackland Center, Hackettstown - 8:00pm

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat @ The Levoy Theatre, Millville - 8:00pm

Billy Bishop Goes to War @ Bickford Theatre at the Morris Museum, Morristown - 2:00pm

Kiss Me Kate @ Broadway Theatre of Pitman, Pitman - 2:00pm and 8:00pm

Phoenix Productions Presents: The Hunchback of Notre Dame @ Count Basie Center For The Arts, Red Bank - 8:00pm

Enchanted April @ The Summit Playhouse, Summit - 8:00pm

Heathers, The Musical High School Edition @ Pebble Players, Oakes Center, Summit - 7:30pm

Junie B. Jones The Musical at Black Box PAC @ Black Box PAC, Teaneck - 11:00am

Into the Woods @ Studio Playhouse Upper Montclair, Upper Montclair - 8:00pm

The Drowsy Chaperone @ Lauren K. Woods Theatre at Monmouth University, West Long Branch - 8:00pm


Todd Barry at SOPAC @ South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC), South Orange - 8:00pm


BALLET FOLKLORICO DE MEXICO @ Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC), Morristown - 8:00pm


ROALD DAHL’S WILLY WONKA JR. @ Ridgewood Ave School Theater, Glen Ridge - 1:00pm and 7:00pm


Mainebiz Health Care Forum @ Mainebiz Health Care Forum, Newyork - 8:00pm

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