Everyone knows what an annual cash cow The Nutcracker has become for ballet companies the world over. It’s with that kind of perennial popularity in mind that Odyssey Dance Theatre’s Derryl Yeager creates most of the company’s shows—i.e., ODT’s Halloween favorite Thriller. But what could possibly compete head-to-head with all those darling, dancing sugarplum fairies during the upcoming busy yuletide season?
Enter stage right: It’s a Wonderful Life!, one of ODT’s first productions designed to convey a full-length narrative story. Yeager notes that it was hard to choreograph employing all sorts of different dance styles—jazz, modern and even hip-hop—while still retaining some kind of thematic cohesiveness. Sure, his goal is always to entertain, but he also wanted to remain true to the core message in the classic movie—how an ordinary person can have an extraordinary impact on everyday life.
Although this staged version of George Bailey’s tale—you know, the man who got to witness how his small town of Bedford Falls would be if he never had existed—hasn’t become as ubiquitous in our holiday culture as The Nutcracker, Yeager says that wasn’t the point in the first place. “It was my intent to create something that was not The Nutcracker but would also become a ‘Wonderful’ alternative to it,” explains Yeager. “It’s A Wonderful Life! is not just a fantasy dance piece, it is a story that reminds us of the true meaning of Christmas.”