Paul McCartney will put his spin on ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ for the stage

Paul McCartney
Paul McCartney is writing music and lyrics for a production of “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

George Bailey, meet Paul McCartney.

The former Beatle, who, at 77, is fresh off a concert performance at Dodger Stadium, is working on music and lyrics for a stage version of “It’s a Wonderful Life.” The 1946 movie classic follows frustrated businessman Bailey and his guardian angel on the darkest night of his life: a Christmas Eve where he ponders his fate.

The musical is being produced by British theater and film impresario Bill Kenwright, according to a news release. Tony Award-winning writer Lee Hall is handling the book.

“Like many of these things this all started with an email,” McCartney said in a statement. “Bill had asked if it was something I might be up for. Writing a musical is not something that had ever really appealed to me, but Bill and I met up with Lee Hall and had a chat, and I found myself thinking this could be interesting and fun. ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ is a universal story we can all relate to.”


For Kenwright, who went to school with McCartney, getting rights to the musical was a dream come true. Decades ago, he’d asked Frank Capra about turning the movie into a musical and received a “lovely” handwritten letter that said, basically, no. They weren’t offered until years later, when he was in the middle of another project with Paramount

“The songs [by McCartney] take you somewhere you don’t expect to go. They sound simple — but it’s deceptive. That’s Paul’s genius. I don’t have to tell any lover of music how extraordinary he is — but he constantly takes my breath away,” Kenwright said in a statement.

The musical is set to launch in late 2020.

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