The Barn Theatre, Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire

It’s a Wonderful Life

By Mary Elliott Nelson
Based on the film directed by Frank Capra
Directed by Rob Graham
13th – 21st December 2024 at 8:00pm
Matinee on December 21st at 2:30pm

Duration: 2hrs approx. including one-interval.

A magical stage adaption of Capra’s acclaimed film.

Fans of this story will not be disappointed… the perfect show to see with your family over the festive period.
Theatre and Tonic

This production is presented by arrangement with Nick Hern Books.

There’s nothing quite like It’s a Wonderful Life. The beloved 1946 Christmas film in which James Stewart plays a despairing man who’s shown what the world would look like if he’d never been born, is, to many of us, as treasured and essential a part of the festive period as Santa Claus himself.

Yet like so many of the best Christmas stories – including this film’s key antecedent – Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol – It’s a Wonderful Life is more than just mistletoe and good cheer. In fact, it’s made richer and more moving by its inherent darkness. Its reputation among sceptics for being rose-tinted schmaltz belies the fact that this a film about a man pushed to the brink of suicide. And set against a background of war, collapsing financial markets, families struggling to get by and mental anguish, perhaps the themes are still as relevant, if not more so, today.

Nelson’s adaption is both faithful and inventive. Written for just four actors – though it can be played with more – the play is fluid with quick and flowing transitions from Heaven to the key buildings within the small town of Bedford Falls. It’s also pacier than the original and includes audience interaction, yet it still remains truthful to the original narrative, ensuring that Capra’s message about valuing what we have shines through.

This is a fable about a man unhappy with his lot in life, struggling with fears of inadequacy, unaware of his own social impact. The film itself was regarded as a failure – only to be later embraced by the world (after years of seasonal TV airings) as a bastion of profound joy and comfort. What would the world look like if It’s a Wonderful Life had never been made? I don’t think any of us would want to find out.


This means you do not have to be a Barn member to audition for this production!

We always look forward to welcoming new members and you only need to become a member once you get cast in the production or join the Creative Team. Thank you for helping to keep the Barn a vibrant, exciting and creative place!

Audition dates, times and venues

Monday 29th July at 7:30 pm in the Studio
Wednesday 31st July at 7:30 pm in the Studio
Friday 2nd August at 7:30 pm in the Studio
Sunday 8th September at 10:30 am in Room 1

This play is based on Frank Capra’s classic film of the same name, in which the youthful and travel-hungry George Bailey is thwarted at every corner in the pursuit of his dreams. Instead, he’s destined to remain in the small American town of Bedford Falls where he was born, diligently serving his beloved community, sacrificing his own ambitions in the process. An unfortunate mistake by a family member has grave consequences and George becomes despairing. He’s saved by the most unlikely hero – a hapless angel seeking his ‘wings’ who shows George what the world would look like if he’d never been born. Cue redemption and (spoiler alert) a happy ending. To many, this old black and white film is as treasured and essential a part of the festive period as mince pies and Father Christmas.

But, like so many of the best Christmas stories, It’s a Wonderful Life is more than just mistletoe and good cheer. There’s an inherent darkness as the lead character is pushed towards contemplating taking his own life. And set against the background of war, collapsing financial markets, mental anguish and families struggling to get by, the themes are still as relevant today as when the film was made. Given that the story will be familiar to many, my vision is for this to be an innovative, immersive and joyous re-telling. I want to bring out the bleakness and desperation as much as the play’s warmth and humour. Laughter and tears in equal measure, I want the audience to leave with a warm fuzzy glow inside.

To be absolutely clear, this show runs from 13th to 21st December in a standard nine-show run so you’ll still have time to buy and wrap those presents for your loved ones.

This adaption is written for just four actors though it can be played by many more. I have in mind a cast of somewhere up to eight with mostly gender-blind casting, plus the potential for two or three children or young adults. With the exception of George Bailey, the lead character and Clarence or Clarissa – take your pick – the angel, there’ll be plenty of doubling, trebling even quadrupling for some of the adults as there are upwards of 20 characters. Most roles will require American accents. Some singing may be involved and a little dancing, but don’t let that put you off!

As a general observation, I don’t want to be too prescriptive about the roles and ages given that this will very much be an ensemble piece, but here’s some guidance together with the pieces we’ll work from in the auditions.

George Bailey – the lead character, who goes through a whole range of emotions during the play’s timespan of 25 years. A cracking part and an iconic role (audition pages from the following 20-21, 23-24, 26-27, 31-32, 52-53, 54-56, 57-61)

Clarence / Clarissa – the bumbling angel sent to rescue George. A gift of a part (audition pages 57-61)

Mary – George’s girlfriend and, later, wife (audition pages 23-24, 52-53)

Violet – the town’s heartthrob (audition pages 31-32)

Billy – George’s well-meaning but hapless uncle who helps him run the town’s building and loans business (audition pages 20-21, 25-27)

Mr Gower – who runs the drugstore and almost poisons an innocent child (pages 15-17)

Mr Potter – the town’s banker and very much the villain of the piece (audition pages 25-27, 54-56)

Other notable adult characters, which will very likely be doubled with some of the above, include Joseph and Gloria (angels), Harry (George’s brother), Sam (George’s friend), Bert (the local cop), Mr Martini (who owns the local bar), and Ernie (the taxi driver).

Young George, Mary, Violet, Harry, Sam – these parts could be played by two to three children (age 10+) and their involvement would be in the opening couple of scenes of the play only. Alternatively, they could be played by young adults (age 18+) in which case there would be the opportunity for doubling up with the adult roles in the rest of the play. Note that the auditions for the younger actors (ages 10-17) will be held when the schools are back at the start of September (audition pages P11-17).

I usually favour a shorter, more intense rehearsal schedule so we’ll maybe have just one or two rehearsals a week from mid-September until the end of October but then really get cracking at the start of November with three rehearsals a week – days to fit around those cast as much as possible. Please get in touch if you’re interested and/or come along to one of the audition dates. A heads-up to which date would be appreciated, though don’t worry unduly if you can’t make them as I’m happy to see people individually if need be.

Scripts are available from either me ([email protected]) or Jacqueline ([email protected]).


Audition dates, times and venues

Monday 29th July at 7:30 pm in the Studio
Wednesday 31st July at 7:30 pm in the Studio
Friday 2nd August at 7:30 pm in the Studio
Sunday 8th September at 10:30 am in Room 1


Directed by
Rob Graham


Capra classic becomes a play for today.
The Guardian
A magical stage adaptation… offers surprises while being truthful to the narrative.
York Press
Beautifully conceived… rises to this challenge of translating such an uplifting and moving story to the stage… an exceptional piece of theatre.
West End Best Friend
Has a delightfully atmospheric economy… Nelson’s text hits the right beats… Capra’s message about valuing what we have shines through in this festively enjoyable production.
The Stage


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Opening 4th October
By Laura Wade



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Diversity, Equality & Inclusion Statement

At the Barn we are committed to promoting equality and challenging discrimination in all its forms. We strive to create a safe and inclusive environment for all members of the cast and creative team, regardless of their race, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity and will work to prevent any form of discrimination or harassment within our organisation.

Part 1, 18th Jan 8pm

Part 2, 19th Jan 8pm

Parts 1+2 20th Jan 2.30pm

Part 1, 23rd Jan 8pm

Part 2, 24th Jan 8pm

Part 1, 25th Jan 8pm

Part 2, 26th Jan 8pm

Part 1, 27th Jan 2.30pm

Part 2,  27th Jan 8pm