"There are people who quote this movie at home and talk like Jimmy Stewart and Lionel Barrymore and say lines from the movie to each other and laugh about it. I know I did," said "This Wonderful Life" director Tim Hyland, right, with Ed Christian.
Ed Christian, left, and director Tim Hyland during preparations for "This Wonderful Life."
Story last updated at 12/2/2009 - 12:13 pm
JUNEAU - Juneau's stages have seen Ed Christian perform a wide variety of characters over the years, from comedic to tragic, from lighthearted to serious.
This weekend, Christian will embark on his first solo performance with Perseverance Theatre in "This Wonderful Life" written by Steve Murray and conceived by Mark Setlock.
Based on Frank Capra's well-known Christmas film "It's A Wonderful Life," the production turns one man into many. Christian plays every character from George Bailey (originally played by Jimmy Stewart in the film) to unnamed extras.
"It's different and it's daunting because it's always your line," Christian said.
Though he doesn't get breaks as he would in a multi-actor production, Christian said he finds himself exhilarated and inspired as he transitions from character to character.
"It's inspiring to work through the story and feel the story work in you," Christian said.
In step with the playwright's notes, Christian hopes to not only portray a likeness of the main characters from the original film, but also to "create memorable versions of lesser characters."
"This is not a story about an impersonator," Christian said. "If you listen to a recording of what I do, you're not going to mistake me for Jimmy Stewart, yet there's a strong element of familiarity. I try to be as accurate as I can to Jimmy Stewart without being a slave to him."
Director Tim Hyland described Christian's job as "finding the essence of the character from the film without trying to sound exactly like him."
"I think this is a chance for him to show parts of himself and things he can do that nobody has seen," Hyland said. "It harkens back to a time of an audience coming together to a storyteller to say, 'Tell the story that we know because we love the way you tell it.'"
This is Hyland's second time working with Perseverance Theatre. His first project in Juneau was working as a fight scene choreographer for last season's "O Lovely Glowworm." Hyland resides in Seattle.
Upon first reading the script, both Hyland and Christian were faced the challenge of pulling off the complicated one-man show. They hope their audiences will react with the same intrigue of how such a feat is possible.
"I think there are a lot of people in the world who know this movie ... so this idea of a guy saying 'I love this movie and I want to perform it for you, the audience, all by myself' is something that people could relate to the idea of, but never think that they would be able to do it," Hyland said. "There are people who quote this movie at home and talk like Jimmy Stewart and Lionel Barrymore and say lines from the movie to each other and laugh about it. I know I did."
"This is an American classic," Christian said. "It's a heartwarming play, consistently tugs at my heartstrings when I watch it and we're trying to present it truthfully for what it is."
"This Wonderful Life" runs Nov. 3-6 with show times at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. All performances will be held at the Thunder Mountain High School Auditorium. Tickets are available at http://www.perseverancetheatre.org/ or by calling 463-TIXS.