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A wonderful adaptation

By JILL U. ADAMS

As we are comforted by the rituals of the holiday season, so are we enlivened by revisiting their lessons anew.

The New York State Theatre Institute (NYSTI) is offering one of those lessons in its holiday offering of It's a Wonderful Life at the Schacht Fine Arts Center on the Russell Sage College campus in Troy this month through Saturday, Dec. 16. It's the classic story, adapted from the 1946 film, made all the more familiar with television reruns of the movie.

"It's a musical, but it's the same story," said Patricia DiBenedetto Snyder, who directs the play and is the founder and producing artistic director of NYSTI. "It clings pretty close to the movie story line. I wouldn't want to change it."

George Bailey, played by Timothy Booth, dreams of getting out and seeing the world, but is prevented from doing so by one crisis after another. With the help of Clarence the angel, played by John Romeo, George realizes that each of these occurrences, while laced with disappointment, helped a neighbor in a significant way, and over the years, helped build a close and caring community.

The familiar words of moviemaker Frank Capra are present, says Booth, "but it's the beauty of live theatre. It's like a living being that they're part of. I think they really go through the journey with George and Clarence and the townspeople."

Theatrical touches add to the immediacy "sounds, smells, sights, lights " that aren't in the movie.

"And the costumes are absolutely gorgeous," Booth said. True to the 1940s period, the 1940's, Booth says wearing the costume enhances his performance.

"It's a lot more clothing than we're used to," he said. "You find the way to walk."

NYSTI performed "A Wonderful Life," adapted by Sheldon Harnick with music by Joe Raposo, in 1998 and 1999, but not again until this year. Booth, who George Bailey in the earlier productions, says it feels great to revisit the role.

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