When an arts group finds a hit around this time of year, it’s a good bet it’ll become an annual tradition. Just think of how synonymous December has become with “The Nutcracker” for ballerinas large and small. But it can be bittersweet for casts and audiences when a company decides to step away from something that has become a habit.

Cygnet Theatre Company put on a radio-play staged version of the beloved holiday film “It’s a Wonderful Life” in 2006, and it’s been onstage every Christmas season since. This, the sixth season, is the last year for the play. I went with our friends at NBC7 San Diego to the Old Town Theater earlier this week for a taste of the production:

Below, watch award-winning Tom Andrew as George Bailey; former Channel 8 television broadcaster Jonathan Dunn-Rankin as the announcer and Mr. Potter; local actor Veronica Murphy as Mrs. Bailey and, new to the cast this year, Patrick Osteen as George’s brother.

View more videos at: http://nbcsandiego.com.

Andrew and Murphy have been in the cast since the first year. I asked them what they thought when they heard the play wasn’t coming back next year. Andrew said it’s sad to leave this role.

“It was a huge gift to be able to play this part. So many people identify with George. So many people know the film,” he said. “So for me, it’s a little sad. I’m going to really hate letting go of George. I won’t really ever let go of George. But I will hate letting go of him.”

But he agreed with Murphy that the decision leaves room for something new next year.

“Cygnet has always been, and got its name, for stepping out,” Murphy said. “Stepping outside the box. Looking at things that are exciting. Looking at new ways to approach things.”

The play draws a crowd and helps the company sell tickets, she said. But moving on speaks to the vision of the leaders of the company, Bill Schmidt and Sean Murray, she said.

“But artistically, and philosophically, don’t we want to do something?” she said. “Don’t we want to step out? Don’t we want to take a new risk?”

Tips if you’re on a tight budget: If you’re under 30, you can get tickets for $20. Also, Goldstar appears to have a few discount tickets left for performances this weekend and next week.

I’m Kelly Bennett, the arts editor for VOSD. You can reach me directly at kelly.bennett@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.325.0531.

And follow Behind the Scene on Facebook.

Kelly Bennett is a former staff writer for Voice of San Diego.

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