Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy’s Theatre Department presented It’s a Wonderful Life November 19th-21st in CHCA’s Lindner Theater

By: Tammy Rosenfeldt

SYCAMORE TOWNSHIP, OH (December 7, 2021) –  The Christmas Classic “It’s a Wonderful Life” was performed by Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy (CHCA) Theatre Departement November 19-21st in the Linder Theater at CHCA. 

CHCA sophomore Clete Reinberger played the challenging part of George Bailey (Photo credit Dan Ledbetter)

This classic story was directed by Susan Jung, Director of Theatre, with Technical Direction by Jim Jung, and Stage Management by senior Kaitlyn Lott.

This faithful, fast-moving stage adaptation of the classic film was not only a joyful Christmas tale, it told the endearing love story of George and Mary Bailey, portraying a vivid portrait of the Greatest Generation. It also conveyed a descent into the darkest hour of a man trapped by circumstance, and a powerful meditation on what makes a meaningful life.

Taking on the role made famous by the legendary Jimmy Stewart could be intimidating, but sophomore Clete Reinberger played the challenging part of George Bailey with excellence. It was clear he was giving his all with his constant energy portraying a man with big dreams. The audience was moved by Reinberger’s range of emotions as he portrayed George’s frustration and sadness in key scenes, and his tenderness with his wife and children in other scenes. Junior Kendyl Hippe did a beautiful job portraying Mary Bailey. Her kind voice and peaceful demeanor as the wife to George and mother to their children delighted the audience.

Completing the Bailey family were the Bailey children Janie, Peter, Tommy, and Zuzu, adorably portrayed by Grade 5 students Lilah Ahmed and Chase Taylor, Grade 3 student Roman Zuniga, and Grade 4 student Bridget Krieger respectively. They drew the audiences in, doing a fantastic job with their timing and delivering their lines. A most captivating scene was shared with Reinberger and Krieger tending to “Zuzu’s Petals”.

Eccentric Uncle Billy was played by talented junior Tyler Gage, who always brings plenty of life to his characters. Sophomore Noah McRedmond portrayed Harry Bailey with lots of fun energy. Senior Matthew Rebhun and sophomore Lainey Zurcher both gave strong performances as George’s parents. Senior Abby Van Jura was entertaining as flirtatious Violet. Portraying the part of villain Mr. Potter, senior Henry Heimlich did a fantastic job as the cynical and conniving enemy.

Many cast members played multiple roles throughout the show. Notably was freshman Ryan Eppert, who played Young George beautifully, followed by the part of police officer Bert for the remainder of the show. Sophomore Tobi Aina and freshman Blake Sisney (Blake for Sunday’s performance) both did a great job playing the roles of Mr. Gower and Sam. Bringing comic relief with his one-liners as cab driver Ernie was freshman Stephen Tait.

Narrating the story as the angels were junior Reese Clary and sophomore Marlana Doepker, who both led with strong voices and did a superb job storytelling. Their audience was angel Clarence, played by charming sophomore Peyton Andry, who did a great job as the naïve character who ultimately saves the day.

As in all shows directed by Jung, you can expect a creative twist to the theatre-going experience. A standout piece of this show was the B&W design of the set and characters. The first glimpse of color happened near the final scene as Clete in his colored scarf ran through Bedford Falls, yelling “Merry Christmas” at everyone he met. The entire final scene was beautiful as all the characters came together, in full color, to show their love for the Bailey family.

At the close of the set strike, CHCA Technical Director Jim Jung shared his thoughts of the show with the cast and families who gathered around for the final talk and prayer. “George came home from his most hopeless day, and instead of sharing with his wife what was going on, he chose to shoulder that burden by himself, which we are not meant to do. God called us to be in community, and thereby bare one another’s burdens. They may seem insignificant and small at times, but we all impact the lives of others. We are all valuable and our lives matter.”

CHCA Fine Arts Director Mona Summers shared, “Watching our students recreate this wonderful Christmas classic on stage was a joy! We had many actors step into major roles for the first time and they were incredible. Our backstage crew led by first-time stage manager Kaitlyn Lott did a great job keeping the story moving with the 35 scene changes. Susan Jung’s theme of black, white, and gray – like the old movie – with the change at the end to full color after George Bailey discovers he has a blessed life and has made a real difference to many, was incredible and impactful. Thanks to the cast and entire Production Team for a great start to the Christmas season!”

Director Susan Jung traditionally shares her thoughts of each show she produces in the playbill. An excerpt from this one is as follows:

My inner theatre super nerd loves to have long discussions with the actors about the meaning behind the moments. And then I am reminded that sometimes the meaning behind traditions can get lost or we forget why we loved the story in the first place. Or we just accept our heritage without ever seeking out the message behind it. The message of this show is important. We exist on this earth for a reason. We are not accidents and what we do matters. How you treat others and the choices you make don’t just affect you. The life you live makes a difference. You matter.

 

So, whether you know this story by heart or it’s your first encounter with it, I hope that you remember that God has purpose to everything and everyone. He wastes nothing and works all things together for good. Not only does He know you, but your name is carved in the palm of His hand.

This message was clear thanks to the talented direction and performances of this talented group. Bravo to the entire cast, student production team, and directors!

*The show is one of seven theatrical productions at Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy this year. Mark your calendars now to attend Moana JR. (January 14-16), 42nd Street (March 11-13), Academy Night Live (April 22-23), and The One Act (May 10).

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