Town Hall Theatre serves up an old chestnut this holiday season that can't help but fill everyone to the brim with holiday cheer. Running through Dec. 16, "It's a Wonderful Life" tells the story of George Bailey, who, faced with financial ruin, considers suicide so that his family can at least benefit from his insurance policy.

Enter one guardian angel named Clarence who shows George what the world would be like if he hadn't been born. It's a sobering journey -- much like the one Ebenezer Scrooge experiences.

"In its own way, this play is very much a tale of gratitude," says artistic director Clive Worsley. "It's a reminder to all of us to remember the good we have in our lives, and the good that we do for others."

Director Lisa Anne Porter has certainly done "good" for local audiences with her nostalgic look at small-town America. Scenic designer Martin Flynn and scenic artist Sarah Spero add to the ambience with their three-dimensional backdrop, well lit by Chris Guptill, that gives a warm, homey feel and allows the stage to easily change from one locale to another. Sound designer Nico Brenni uses his expertise to add such nice details as a squeaking screen door pantomimed by an actress.

But it is the performers who make this show come alive, beginning with Dan Saski's engaging portrayal of George. Saski strikes a nice balance between the younger, idealistic George and his older, disillusioned self, with Lauren Rosi exuding a lovely energy as his wife Mary.

Also of note in this large cast are Randy Anger (who seems to be enjoying himself immensely as the evil Henry Potter), Caitlin Evenson (wonderful in three different roles), Adrienne Krug (as George's loving mother), and Tom Flynn (as the guardian angel).

"It's a Wonderful Life" plays through Dec. 16, at Lafayette's Town Hall Theatre. Call 925-283-1557 or go to www.townhalltheatre.com.

The company is also hoping for a special Christmas present from Mozilla's Firefox Challenge. The company will donate an additional $100,000 to the nonprofit that raises the most money between now and Jan. 10.

"That means every time someone donates to Town Hall, it gets us closer to that additional $100,000 from Mozilla," says Worsley. "That money would go a long way toward sets, costumes, lights, actors, teaching artists and upgrades to our facilities." For more information, go to www.townhalltheatre.com.

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    Also opening this past weekend was Onstage Theatre's production of "Christmas Belles" at Cue Productions Live, 1835 Colfax St., in Concord. Directed by Helen Means, the production brings a southern touch to the holidays as the Futrelle sisters celebrate Texas-style.

    Frankie (June McCue) is long overdue with the birth of twins while a revenge-seeking Twink (Siobhan O'Brien) is in jail for burning half the town down. Meanwhile, the slightly more responsible Honey Raye Futrelle (Babette Bilger) tries to hold the church's Christmas program together as cast members come down with food poisoning from the Boosters' pancake breakfast.

    It's a Christmas story of a different variety but one that brings plenty of laughs and even a tear or two. "Christmas Belles" only has four shows left -- 7:30 p.m. Dec. 6; 8 p.m. Dec. 7; and 2:15 p.m. and 8:15 p.m. Dec. 8. Call 925-518-3277 for tickets.

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    If you prefer the traditional "A Christmas Carol," Center Rep presents the perennial favorite Dec. 6-16, at the Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek.

    Directed by Scott Denison, the show features Mark Anderson Phillips as Scrooge and lots of elaborate costumes and special effects. Call 926-943-SHOW (925-943-7469) or go to www.lesherartscenter.org.

    Contact Sally Hogarty at sallyhogarty@gmail.com.