Review: 'It's A Wonderful Life' by The Theatre at TCC

Nancy Sasso Janis

  • Connecticut Critic
  • Connecticut Critics Circle

"Strange, isn't it? Each man's life touches so many other lives. When he isn't around he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?" - Clarence in 'It's A Wonderful Life'

Terryville, CT - ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ is the perfect little holiday show for the young Theatre at Terryville Congregational Church. Allison Graboski directed the first Christmas play ever done at this venue with the help of TCC Production Manager Jonathan Zalaski and musical supervision by Kerri Morris (who appears as bank inspector Miss Carter.) The play is based upon the film by Frank Capra and the original story by Philip Van Doren Stern, and was adapted for the stage by James W. Rodgers.

The setting is Christmas Eve in Bedford Falls in 1945 and Clarence the angel in training comes down from Heaven just in time to save the mortal George Bailey. This will never be one of my favorite pieces, but I must say that this heartwarming production made it begin to grow on me just a bit. The simple set changes take us where we need to go and the director/production designer used the small stage area well. Kudos to the small but mighty stage crew. The little bits of music added much to the two acts, especially the tiny choir at the funeral of the elder Mr. Bailey. 

The TCC production stars Wayne Harnish in the Jimmy Stewart role of George Bailey.  Mr. Harnish admits to very little onstage experience, but it hardly shows in his fine performance. Julia Perez is lovely in the role of his wife Mary Hatch Bailey. Curt Wilbanks, whose only theatrical experience was during the presidency of Harry Truman, is quite adorable as the lovable angel trying to earn his wings, Clarence Odbody. Lyle Ressler, who has appeared in many a production both at TCC and elsewhere,  plays the formidable Henry F. Potter with a wonderful prop cane. David Nichols is very strong in the role of the bumbling Uncle Billy. 

The fantastic Kennedy Morris, an eighth grade student at Wamogo, returns to this stage to play George’s friend, Violet Peterson. With a head full of pipe curls and a deluxe period wardrobe, she was a pleasure to watch. I especially enjoyed seeing her interact with her mother onstage as angry savings and loan customers. Another young performer was Nick Panella in the role of Mr. Martini; Mr. Panella attends NVCC and studies acting. He delivers his lines with conviction and charm. 

Of course Mr. Zalaski stood out in the role of George’s brother Harry. This young man, now a junior in theatre performance at CSCU, has a slew of credits and I look forward to seeing him in the Warner Stage Company’s upcoming production of ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ opening next weekend and ‘The Who’s Tommy.’ 

Church member Diane Pratt is a loving Ma Bailey and Jillian Boland (an eighth grade student who has 7A credits and appears in her fourth TCC production) is very convincing and fun as Aunt Tilly. Retired social worker Raymond Zalaski plays the pharmacist Mr. Gower and Douglas Sato, an eighth grade student,  plays the role of the police officer Bernie. Rev. Zachary Mabe has appeared in every one of the five TCC shows and here he does very well with the role of Mr. Welch, the husband of the teacher that George reams on the telephone. 

Other cast members include Nick’s mother Mary Jane Panella, Mary-Alice Wilbanks, Jean Zalaski, Quinn Harnish (theatrical debut as Young George,) Andrew Hawes, Jr., Nicole Westover, and Alexa Harnish. 

I was invited to attend the final dress rehearsal with a handful of family members and the cast was excited to perform in front of the small audience.  At the regular performances, there will be pre-show entertainment by Kennedy and Kerri Morris, David Nichols and Lyle Ressler.  The only performance dates are Dec. 2 and Dec. 3 at 7:00pm and performances are at the Terryville Congregational Church on Main Street.  

Next up at TCC will be the second annual ‘A Night on Broadway’ with local artist performing Broadway favorites. For audition information, contact

Promotional photography by Sarah Kozma Photography.