Not Jimmy Stewart's 'Wonderful Life'

Looking dapper with his slicked-back hair and gray vest, Sawyer Stahl was all the part of George Bailey, the well-meaning banker of Bedford Falls whose frustrations nearly end him before he realizes that his is a wonderful life indeed.

But while some may turn to Frank Capra's iconic 1946 film for inspiration, the 17-year-old Newport Harbor High School senior — who's playing the lead role for his school's production "It's a Wonderful Life" — isn't going to.

"I don't want to want watch the movie until I've done the show because I don't want to act like Jimmy Stewart," Sawyer said. "I want to act like George Bailey."

Sawyer and his nearly 40 student cast-and-crew colleagues were rehearsing the show Wednesday night in preparation for its opening Thursday at the school's Robert B. Wentz Theater. The show plays at 7 p.m. nightly from Thursday through Saturday, with an extra matinee show Saturday at 2 p.m.

Roberta Kay directs the production and Joe Robinson is the producer. Kay has been working for NHHS shows for 12 years.

She complimented her cast, crew and volunteer parents, who have collectively devoted hundreds of hours over the course of about five weeks to get the show together.

"You have to be strongly committed to theater," she said. "It's after school every day, plus Saturdays for five or six hours."

As an actor, Sawyer said he's loved playing someone who's "really mad all the time."

"I really like playing depressed characters, but not the sad depressed," he said. "More like the 'I'm-gonna-go-throw-stuff-at-the-wall-and-drink-Scotch' kind of depressed."

He plays on enlisting in the Air Force after graduation, then pursuing theater.

Scarlett Turner, a 15-year-old sophomore, plays Bailey's love interest, Mary Hatch, who eventually becomes Mary Bailey. "It's a Wonderful Life" is her first chance at a major role.

"I feel very overwhelmed with everything, but I think it's amazing and so much fun," she said. "The opportunity to act with everyone and do what I love is great."

Twitter: @bradleyzint

If You Go

What: "It's a Wonderful Life" at Newport Harbor High School

When: Thursday through Saturday at 7 p.m., and 2 p.m. Saturday

How much: $12 for adults, $10 for seniors and $5 for students

Where: Robert B. Wentz Theater, 600 Irvine Ave., Newport Beach

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