A Wonderful Life (musical)

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A Wonderful Life
A Wonderful Life musical.png
MusicJoe Raposo
LyricsSheldon Harnick
BookSheldon Harnick
BasisFrank Capra's film
It's a Wonderful Life
Productions1986 University of Michigan
1991 Washington DC
2005 Broadway concert
2006 Millburn, New Jersey

A Wonderful Life is a 1986 musical with a book and lyrics by Sheldon Harnick and music by Joe Raposo.

Based on the classic Frank Capra film It's a Wonderful Life starring James Stewart, the story closely follows the original plot, set in 1945, telling the story of a suicidal man whose guardian angel reveals to him how different the world and everyone whose life he has touched would be had he never been born. The film was, in turn, based on a 1938 short story by Philip Van Doren Stern called The Greatest Gift.

Background and production history[edit]

Harnick and Raposo worked for many years to put together a musical version of It's a Wonderful Life, but just as the musical's book was completed, a controversy arose over the rights to the underlying Stern story that delayed production of the show. During this delay, Raposo died of cancer in 1989.[1]

A Wonderful Life was performed initially at the University of Michigan in 1986. The first professional production took place at the Wagon Wheel Playhouse in Warsaw, Indiana, in 1988, followed by a staged reading at the Paper Mill Playhouse, Millburn, New Jersey, in 1990. It was produced at Washington, DC's Arena Stage, running from November 15, 1991, to January 5, 1992.[2]

On December 12, 2005, a staged concert version was directed by Carl Andress and choreographed by Denis Jones at the Shubert Theatre in New York City for the benefit of the Actors' Fund of America. Among the Broadway notables who participated were Brian Stokes Mitchell as George Bailey, David Hyde Pierce as guardian angel Clarence, Judy Kuhn as Mary Bailey, Dominic Chianese as Mr. Potter, Karen Ziemba as The MC, Philip Bosco as Joseph, Marian Seldes as Mrs. Hatch, Ronn Carroll as Tom Bailey, Marc Kudisch as Sam Wainwright, Michael Berresse as Harry Bailey, Nancy Anderson as Violet, Chuck Cooper as Uncle Billy, George S. Irving as Mr. Martini, Jayne Houdyshell as Mrs. Martini, and Phylicia Rashad as Millie Bailey. The event was hosted by Actors Fund President Joseph Benincasa and Vice Chair of the Actors Fund Bebe Neuwirth.[3]

The Paper Mill Playhouse presented a fully staged production, from November through December 17, 2006, directed by James Brennan; it received moderately positive reviews.[4] Theatre Under The Stars produced the work in 2007, and it has received other regional productions.[5]

Song list[edit]


  1. ^ Information from the TUTS study guide Archived February 11, 2011, at the Wayback Machine. tuts.com
  2. ^ Rousuck, J. Wynn.Lovely touches of comedy revive spirit of 'A Wonderful Life' " The Baltimore Sun, November 26, 1991
  3. ^ Gans, Andrew."Actors' Fund's 'A Wonderful Life' Concert — with Brian Stokes Mitchell — Presented Dec. 12" Archived June 4, 2011, at the Wayback Machine. playbill.com, December 12, 2005
  4. ^ See, for example, "New York Times Times review" movies.nytimes.com, November 26, 2006, and "Talkin' Broadway review" talkinbroadway.com
  5. ^ Review of a Chicago production

External links[edit]