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An offbeat, Buffalo-tinged take on 'It's a Wonderful Life'

Every year, roughly in sync with the first flakes of lake effect, a predictable flurry of holiday shows descends on local stages.

The longest-running and most beloved of these is Alleyway Theatre’s production of “A Christmas Carol,” which will launch its 35th year on Dec. 8.

But those jonesing for an early fix of Christmas are in luck, with the opening of a production based on the classic film "It's a Wonderful Life." And while many communities have produced their own peculiar takes on the story of George Bailey and his Christmas epiphany, it's unlikely that any of them best Forest Lawn Cemetery's "It WAS a Wonderful Life," which opens Nov. 25 in the cemetery's chapel (1411 Delaware Ave.)

The show has been immensely popular since its opening in 2012, drawing crowds to the unusual venue to see what is often a who's who of Buffalo's musical theater community giving a casual, holiday performance.

Originally conceived by former Kavinoky Theatre Managing Director Joseph Demerly, "It WAS a Wonderful Life" tells the stories of long-dead Buffalonians of note who are interred in Forest Lawn. These range from dead presidents such as Millard Fillmore to more obscure figures, who come together for a kind of song-and-dance holiday medley drenched in Buffalo pride and lore.

"It is a show about the past," Ben Siegel wrote in his 2012 review, but given the legacies involved, it’s as relevant to us today as it was to them then."

There are multiple shows on Saturdays and Sundays through the end of year. Some have already sold out. Tickets are $25, with info at 288-5999 or



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