As soon as people hear the title ''It's a Wonderful Life,'' it triggers a flood of memories.
Thanks to years when the movie fell into public domain and seemingly every channel except for ESPN and Playboy carried the 1946 film on an endless loop in December, most people have seen the holiday favorite many times and have strong expectations about what a stage production bearing that name should include.
Director Terri Gilbert said the stage version, written by James W. Rodgers, does a good job of presenting that familiar story in a live setting. The play opens Friday for a three-weekend run at Trumbull New Theatre.
''I wanted to do something holiday related, something with a little bigger cast,'' Gilbert said. ''It's a name show that I hoped would draw some interest in the community and with our patrons.''
That last point already is proving to be true. Based on the response when the box office opened to season ticket holders and patrons last week, there is a good chance for sellouts during the show's run.
There might not be a car crash on stage, but Rodgers preserves many of the elements from the movie, which means creating multiple locations on the TNT stage and executing quick set changes.
WHAT: ''It's a Wonderful Life''
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Nov. 9-10 and 16-17 and 3 p.m. Nov. 18
WHERE: Trumbull New Theatre, 5883 Youngstown-Warren Road, Niles.
HOW MUCH: $12 adults and $10 students. For reservations or more information, call the TNT box office at 330-652-1103 between 7 and 9 p.m. weekdays.
''Kate Huff has been a big help on the set with scenic design,'' Gilbert said. ''This is a set that you have to get so many different elements, and she has been able to make them pop. She's really been able to help me create the Bedford Falls I knew I wanted.''
The play tells the story of George Bailey, who operates a family-owned savings and loan business. A financial crisis has him pondering suicide until he gets a visit from his guardian angel, Clarence, who shows him what life in Bedford Falls would be like if he never had lived.
When it came to casting, Gilbert said she looked for the best actors, not necessarily the performers who fit the movie characters physically. For example, no one would mistake Warren Municipal Court Judge Thomas Gysegem, who plays Clarence, for the older, feeble Henry Travers from the film.
Rob Morris, who has appeared in several comedies at TNT, takes on the more dramatic challenge of playing George Bailey.
''It's a whole different venue for him,'' Gilbert said. ''At TNT he's really done comedy more, but he has the ability. He's doing a really nice job with being able to find George. He's a minister, and he can draw on life experiences that he's had with parishioners to get the depth of character.''
The rest of the cast includes Gary Roddy, Samuel Darrin, Brett Bunker, JoAnn Winterbauer, Jenny Long, Rene Johntony, Wayne Morlock, Herb Everman, Jerry Kruse, Nicole Bowden, Bill Finley, Art Smallsreed, Molly Lukehart, Margie Johnson, John Timmins, Kathy Purdum, Rene Penn, Michael J. Hill, Micky Burnsworth, Kate Huff, Gunnar Gray, Jim Penn, Abby Deemer and Olivia Gray.