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Newly Reviewed: It's a Wonderful Life: Live, at the Emerson Black Box Theatre 

It's a Wonderful Life: Live Slightly less breathless than your typical Magic Smoking Monkey production, but only because it's not shoehorned into a one-hour box, director Donna Northcott's spoof of the holiday classic manages to deliver MSM's full-strength dose of recklessness. Actors machine-gun jokes as they race across the stage, props go flying and hand puppets freak out. It's a hoot, and it's all live in black-and-white — costumes, sets and most props keep to a monochrome color scheme, making it look just like the film. Sort of. Ed Cole performs a heroic, sustained Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey, right down to the slight stoop and the sideways manner with which he approaches his fellow actors. Eustace Allen's Clarence is a giggly jitterbug of an angel, and Suki Peters creates a Zuzu who's borderline insane — well, maybe not borderline. The large ensemble plays multiple roles with anarchic glee — look for Carl Overly as sass-mouthed maid Annie — but some jokes are lost as the general din of the continuous comedy explosion muddies some of the narration, which is shouted from backstage. Don't worry about that too much — it's not hard to understand what a shotgun-wielding George Bailey means. Through December 10 at the Emerson Black Box Theatre in the J. Scheidegger Center for the Arts, 2300 West Clay Street (on the campus of Lindenwood University), St. Charles. Tickets are $15 ($10 for students). Call 314-361-5664 or visit www.stlshakespeare.org. — Paul Friswold

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