"IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE," ODYSSEY DANCE THEATRE, Thursday, Kingsbury Hall; additional performances through Dec. 22 (581-7100)

The high-school dance scene is always a highlight of Odyssey Dance Theatre's "It's a Wonderful Life."

The fast-paced jitterbugging and swing romp gets the audience cheering, and the big splash at the end of the scene, when George Bailey and his girlfriend Mary fall into the pool, is a nice segue into the intermission.

And while the pool is used throughout the production — when George rescues his little brother Harry after a sledding accident and when the angel Clarence jumps into the water to prevent George from committing suicide — it is the dancing that carries the much-loved Christmas story.

Much like Frank Capra's film, the Odyssey Dance Theatre version of "It's a Wonderful Life" focuses on George Bailey (danced Thursday by Eldon Johnson) and his wife, Mary (Veronica Yeager).

A mix of styles — ranging from tap, jazz, modern, ballet, Celtic, hip-hop and swing — give the story and characters depth.

The score, which was re-recorded by composer Sam Cardon in Prague a few weeks ago, adds life to the scenes, and in more than one case, it had audience members wiping tears from their eyes.

Artistic director Derryl Yeager's creative vision has found ways to create the city of Bedford Falls with reversible building facades — and dramatic lighting.

Still, when all is said and done, the production is built on the dancing.

Thayne Jasperson's Harry Bailey is spry, energetic and athletically limber as he leaps across the stage with light-footed grace.

Yeager's Mary is full of life as she and George take on numerous pas de deux. The chemistry between Yeager and Johnson is warm and inviting.

Speaking of Johnson, he dances with an innocence and optimism that finds its way into the character.

Of course, one character, Clarence, needs to be addressed. Since the production debuted in 2005, Rowland Butler has danced the angel. He's funny, spry, cute and sometimes mischievous, but always has his heart in the right place, and with the help of a stage cable, he eventually obtains his wings.

With the numerous holiday-themed performances to choose from, "It's a Wonderful Life" is a good one. Odyssey remains true to the feel and message of the film, and shows the audience that one life, indeed, can make a difference to many.


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