ARE you looking for an alternative to pantomimes, ice shows, A Christmas Carol and children’s dramas this winter? Why not take a trip over to Beverley for It’s A Wonderful Life at the East Riding Theatre.

The ERT is transporting audiences to 1940s America as it brings to life a magical stage adaptation of Frank Capra’s classic 1947 film. Frequently voted as the best-ever Christmas film, this heart-warming story follows the fortunes of George Bailey, a small-town clerk facing financial ruin who wonders if his town would be better off without him.

Somewhere in the stars, however, an apprentice angel needs to save a soul to win her wings. Could this be a match made in heaven?

Jake Smith makes his ERT directorial debut in this production, having worked at the National Theatre and Chichester Festival Theatre, as well as being a resident director at the Almeida in London.

“I’m delighted to be directing It’s a Wonderful Life,” says Jake. “The spirit of ERT is one of community, so what better production to present this Christmas than a story about the importance of community, the value of humanity and the true meaning of Christmas.

“I’ve re-imagined the classic Christmas movie for the stage with a cast of 12 actors, set in its original period of 1946 America. It features dance, originally composed music, magic and sparkle and some surprises!”

The dozen-strong cast includes ERT favourites Clive Kneller and Richard Avery, while Andrew Joshi and Harriet Benson are making their ERT debut, with Joshi following in the footsteps of James Stewart in the role of George Bailey and Harriet playing Clarence the Angel.

Adrian Rawlins, artistic director at ERT, says: “It’s always a privilege to be able to encourage young talent, so I’m thrilled to have welcomed up-and-coming young director Jake Smith to direct this year’s Christmas show.

“What struck me about Jake when I first met him was his absolute love for what he does. His enthusiasm is infectious. He’s got some very exciting ideas for It’s A Wonderful Life which have inspired a wonderful set design from Ed Ullyart and he’s assembled a fantastic cast.”

It’s A Wonderful Life runs at East Riding Theatre, Beverley, until January 6. Tickets are on sale at or on 01482 874050.

Only One Question for...It's A Wonderful Life director Jake Smith

What are the challenges of putting such an iconic film on the stage?

"I think if we define 'iconic' in the classic Greek sense, which is 'depicting a victorious athlete in a conventional style', this definition helps articulate the challenges any director faces when staging a film for an audience.

"The biggest of these challenges is expectation and you have to say very clearly this is not the film. In the rehearsal room, we banned the words 'It's like this in the film'.

"I, of course, want audiences to have their expectations met but also the expectations of the writer Mary Elliott Nelson, who has adapted It's A Wonderful Life for the stage. The adaptation is really charming and has offered me a brilliant way to frame the way we tell this story.

"The challenges have always been creatively rewarding; from how do we design the world of Bedford Falls and tell a story that takes place through multiple locations and time, to the casting and presenting a community representative of today.

"All our discoveries have come from focusing on presenting a production which is victorious, athletic and conventional in style with some surprises to meet and exceed expectations for audiences of old and new."