11gilbert Gilbert Theater’s “It’s a Wonderful Life,” opening this weekend, centers on the themes of family and gratitude. Of all the Christmas classics, Gilbert chose to perform “It’s a Wonderful Life” this year because of its sobering values. 

  Gilbert Theater Artistic Director Matthew Overturf, who has played a part in the production for four years, said, “It has become a staple in the Fayetteville community. It still speaks here in 2018 about the ‘everyman’ and what in our life we can appreciate and what in our life makes us good people. We all need to see … that we truly have a lot to be grateful for, and our lives impact a lot of other people.” 

  According to Miles Snow, who will portray George Bailey, the show’s most critical theme is “the importance of family – being appreciative of what you already have. This is a guy who at the beginning of the show is in a suicidal state; he has to take a moment to reflect and (realize) ‘I have a wife and kids I love and a job in a town where people respect me, and that’s a lot – that’s more than enough.’” Snow looks forward to presenting the paradigm shift in Bailey’s life. 

  Director Ja’Maul Johnson welcomes the challenge of portraying a beloved classic in a new way. “I have been a part of this production since we started doing it at the Gilbert,” he said. “There will be a couple of twists and turns to reinvent it … but keep it the same story.” 

  Snow hopes to reimagine the show while still respecting its original narrative. He commented, “People bring their own expectations to it, and that’s already a part of the show in a sense, and you want to honor the piece.” 

  Staci Graybill, who will act as Mary Bailey, commented on the challenge of playing Mrs. Bailey for a second time: “A real challenge for me is going to be playing all the different ages that they go through.” 

  Snow, who has played Mr. Bailey several times, said, “I just want to see if we can collectively take it along, take it further.” 

  Johnson, in agreement, is excited to see the growth within the individual cast members this year. “Each year, someone brings something new – I want to see what this collection will bring to it,” he said. 

  Graybill said, “It’s so easy to get lost in all the hardships in life, but if you stop and look around and see all the loving people in your life, I think that’s a good reminder.” 

  Johnson added that he desires to take that message “throughout the year, not just in Christmastime.” 

  “It’s a Wonderful Life” runs Nov. 23-Dec. 16, with student matinees on the Nov. 27 and Dec. 4 at 10 a.m. at the Gilbert Theater, 116 Green St. To purchase tickets, visit www.gilberttheater.com or call 910-678- 7186 for more information. 

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