Entertainment » Theatre

It’s A Wonderful (One-Man Show) Life

by Winnie McCroy
EDGE Editor
Monday Dec 15, 2008
Jason Grossman in <i>It’s A Wonderful (One Man Show) Life!</i>
Jason Grossman in It’s A Wonderful (One Man Show) Life!  

It's Christmas time in the city, and just as shoppers rush home with their treasures, so must they rush through the demanding schedule of holiday entertainment. What fortune, then, is the return of actor Jason Grossman in It's A Wonderful (One Man Show) Life!, running through December 21 at the Manhattan Theatre Source, near Washington Square Park. In about an hour, this talented impressionist acts out the holiday film favorite, portraying all 33 characters with accuracy and humor.

Award winning director/playwright Sharon Fogarty directs Grossman in this live, solo adaptation of Frank Capra's classic film, "It's a Wonderful Life," at this cozy, brick, all-volunteer theater housed in a former Capezio shoe store. The show originally premiered in 2000 at New York City's St. Mark's Theatre. With a simple set featuring a miniature paper-cutout scale model of Bedford Falls, Grossman performs one-man versions of each scene of the beloved holiday favorite.

Using simple props like glasses, a hat, or shawl-and sometimes using nothing more than a distorted grin or girlish giggle-the talented actor morphs from Annie to Mary to George to Zuzu to create a total of 33 characters. His breakneck pace is awe-inspiring as he moves quickly through all salient plot points of the story, not acting out every bit of the film, but responding in point enough to keep the narrative thread going.

Grossman morphs from Annie to Mary to George to Zuzu, to create a total of 33 characters.

Grossman's impression of Jimmy Stewart in the role of George Bailey is spot-on, with him easily adopting Stewart's trademark indignant sputtering like a comfortable overcoat. He plays George perfectly, from saving his brother Harry from plunging through the ice, to his stopping grief-stricken druggist from accidentally poisoning a sick child, to his youthful dreams of travel and urban planning, to his somber reality of being stuck at the Savings and Loan for all eternity.

His range encompasses old characters, like doddering Uncle Billy and evil Mr. Potter, to youthful kids like baby Zuzu and his beloved Mary. Most impressive are the scenes when he plays both George and Mary, elegantly dancing together or sharing a first kiss, inhabiting both characters in rapid succession so that appears flawlessly simultaneous.

Grossman adds much to the telling with his own humorous injections, from his lazy sidestroke swimming in stage center as Clarence, Angel Second Class, to stuffing tiny Playskool figures representing the townsfolk of Bedford Falls into their tiny cardboard Savings and Loan, to running through the audience handing out fake money while enacting the scene in which the bank nearly goes belly-up. The ending, with George's triumphant realization of the true value of his life, is discovered brilliantly in this homage to Capra's vision.

The action in It's A Wonderful (One Man Show) Life! will be most loved and most easily followed by fans of the original film version. But given that, during this time of year especially, that audience includes a wide range of folks, it is a safe bet that all viewers will enjoy the clever turns of Grossman's one-man show. Gather with friends to watch the movie, then trek over to the Village and catch the live-action, one-man show for a powerful one-two holiday punch!

It’s a Wonderful (One Man Show) Life!
December 8-21
Manhattan Theatre Source
177 MacDougal St.

Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women's news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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