I Wanna Live Again 

"This Wonderful Life" packages the Capra classic in one convenient human.

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Trying to figure out how to cut back on holiday spending without scrimping on holiday cheer is enough to make anyone want to jump off a bridge. But don't fret. Barksdale Theatre's production of "This Wonderful Life" is the Clarence Odbody answer to your George Bailey prayers. Tickets cost 38 bucks but the experience is priceless.

Actor Scott Wichmann gleefully recreates the Frank Capra classic, "It's a Wonderful Life," carrying us through his version of a dozen characters, lines from the movie and witty asides that comment on the story behind the story.

Wichmann embodies the childlike enthusiasm and wholesome goofiness that's paramount in making the show work. He obviously adores this story and loves sharing it with the audience. But what makes the show truly wonderful is Wichmann's uncanny ability to switch characters on a dime. Especially nice is the famous telephone scene in which Wichmann switches from Mary to George as they listen to a call on a single telephone. The solo Wichmann is so engaging that he builds romantic tension with himself.

Wichmann's imitations are spot-on. You can practically see Violet Bick's blond locks as Wichmann executes her vixen hair flip and says her famous line: "This old thing? I only wear this when I don't care how I look." The play allows further insights that the film omits, too: Mr. Potter is described as a "booger-eating bastard" -- something fans have always thought but may not have verbalized.

"This Wonderful Life," directed by John Moon, runs through Jan. 11 at the Barksdale Theatre at Willow Lawn. Tickets are $33-$38. For information call 282-2620 or go to www.barksdalerichmond.org.

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