Courtesy Photo / Perseverance Theatre
Wes Mann, who will embody multiple characters in Perseverance Theatre’s upcoming “This Wonderful Life,” holds up a copy of the classic film that was adapted into a one-actor stage show while standing in front of a green screen that will be transformed via digital effects. “This Wonderful Life” will be available on demand beginning the evening of Dec. 19.

Courtesy Photo / Perseverance Theatre Wes Mann, who will embody multiple characters in Perseverance Theatre’s upcoming “This Wonderful Life,” holds up a copy of the classic film that was adapted into a one-actor stage show while standing in front of a green screen that will be transformed via digital effects. “This Wonderful Life” will be available on demand beginning the evening of Dec. 19.

Perseverance Theatre presents new effort adapted from ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’

It’s different, but a lot of things should still ring a bell.

You don’t have to go to the theater to see “This Wonderful Life.” It’s in Joe’s house and Mrs. Kennedy’s house and Mrs. Macklin’s house and a hundred others, and it’s available to watch at your convenience.

“This Wonderful Life,” a one-actor stage adaptation of “It’s a Wonderful Life,” will be streaming on demand Dec.19-25 through Perseverance Theatre and Dec. 19-30 through the service Broadway on Demand.

“We’re the professional theater of Alaska, and we take that seriously,” said Leslie Ishii, Perseverance Theatre’s artistic director and co-director of “This Wonderful Life,” in a video interview. “And gosh, we’re able to reach more of Alaska because of this moment.”

“This Wonderful Life,” which is co-directed by Josh Lowman, stars Ishii’s husband, Wes Mann, who people will likely recognize from one of his dozens of film and television roles over the past few decades. While Mann has appeared in everything from “Back to the Future Part II” to “That’s So Raven” to “Lucifer” over the years, “This Wonderful Life” will be his first Perseverance Theatre production as an actor — he said he’s been an audience member and helped make props in the past.

[Perseverance Theatre transforms a classic Christmas story]

Ishii, Mann and Lowman said the digital production and casting allow the theater to offer the community another special holiday-focused effort — “A Tlingit Christmas” is also debuting new staves and available to stream online — as safely as possible.

“We wanted to do something as a gift to our community, together, but also we wanted to be safe,” Ishii said. “We can be in our own bubble. If we can be in our own bubble and not expose other staff members, we just thought that was the best way to go about it.”

Offering “This Wonderful Life” as an on-demand, digital option also means the play can be shot using multiple cameras and some effects can be added during editing, said the production’s co-directors and cast of one.

“It’s going to be pre-recorded, almost straight through with breaks as if we were doing them live,” Lowman said. “Sort of like sitcoms are done, live-to-tape.”

Mann said the atypical project has underscored how much he enjoys working with other actors. The audience’s absence creates a challenge, too.

“The challenge really is to anticipate where a laugh might be,” Mann said.

While the show will be a less-familiar take on what has become a holiday staple, plenty of the Frank Capra film will be recognizable in “This Wonderful Life.” Mann demonstrated a Jimmy Stewart impression during the video interview and said during the show he’ll be channeling Donna Reed and Lionel Barrymore, too.

“You can’t avoid it,” Mann said. “It’s so iconic.”

The show’s dramatic themes and premise are also a constant. George Bailey is still a man beset by stressors and pressures from many sides and contemplating dying by suicide. Through divine intervention, he discovers the myriad ways he has touched other lives.

“The movie makes me cry,” Mann said.

Lowman said he has a personal, slightly unusual connection to the material, too. He previously was a bank manager and understands what missing money —$8,000 in the play, which Lowman said works out to be about $120,000 today —would mean for a bank.

“I think parts of it resonate with me that don’t resonate with other people,” he said with a laugh.

Ishii, Lowman and Mann said in light of pandemic-related challenges, the material is made especially moving and relatable. They said economic anxiety, the way individualism and isolation can lead to feelings of depression and the way actions ripple and affect others are all things that have recently gained extra poignancy.

“There’s a lot of different little things that resonate with what’s happening right now,” Lowman said.

• Contact Ben Hohenstatt at (907)308-4895 or bhohenstatt@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt

Know & Go

What: “This Wonderful Life”

When: On demand from 7:30 p.m. Dec. 19 through Dec. 25.

Where: A link will be emailed to people who purchase tickets.

Admission: Admission is pay-as-you can with $12, $17 and $27 options. They are available through https://www.ptalaska.org/twl/.

More in News

Even as coronavirus numbers are going down and vaccines are being distributed, pandemic-related facilities like the testing site at Juneau International Airport, seen here in this Oct. 12 file photo, are scheduled to remain for some time, according to city health officials. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire file)
Vaccines are coming, but pandemic facilities will remain

Testing sites and other COVID-19 operations will continue, officials say, but infections are trending down.

After violent protesters loyal to President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol today, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, left, and Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., join other senators as they return to the House chamber to continue the joint session of the House and Senate and count the Electoral College votes cast in November's election, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Murkowski on impeachment: ‘I will listen carefully’ to both sides

As for timing, the senator said, “our priority this week must be to ensure safety in Washington, D.C.”

Has it always been a police car. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire)
Police calls for Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Juneau City Hall. The City and Borough of Juneau has distributed nearly $5 million in household and individual assistance grants since October. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)
All housing and most personal assistance grants processed

About $5 million in aid is flowing to households and individuals in Juneau.

White House, tribes joined to deliver Alaska Native vaccines

The initiative has treated Indigenous tribes as sovereign governments and set aside special vaccine shipments.

A child plays at Capital School Park. The park is in line for a remodel that will fix the crumbling retaining wall, visible in the background. (Dana Zigmund / Juneau Empire)
A new life is in store for Capital School Park

Public input is helping craft a vision for the park’s voter-approved facelift.

Expected heavy snow and high winds Thursday evening prompted Alaska’s Department of Transportation and Public Facilities to issue a warning of increased avalanche hazard along Thane Road. (File photo)
Avalanche risk increasing along Thane Road

Be careful and plan for the possibility of an extended road closure.

This 2020 electron microscope image provided by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases - Rocky Mountain Laboratories shows SARS-CoV-2 virus particles which causes COVID-19, isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerging from the surface of cells cultured in a lab. On Monday, Oct. 5, 2020, the top U.S. public health agency said that coronavirus can spread greater distances through the air than 6 feet, particularly in poorly ventilated and enclosed spaces. But agency officials continued to say such spread is uncommon, and current social distancing guidelines still make sense. (NIAID-RML via AP)
COVID at a glance for Friday, Jan. 8

The most recent state and local numbers.

Most Read