It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play by Joe Landry
December 5-20, Roebling Theater
It’s A Wonderful Life sparkles as a radio show. The audience sees and hears this American Holiday Classic come to life as actors bounce from character to character and sound effect to sound effect.
“A fresh and inventive way of reconnecting with a classic story of love and redemption.” Chicago Times
Billings Gazette Review: Sentimental 'Wonderful Life,'
the radio version, plays at NOVA • Jaci Webb Dec 12, 2014
For many, a holiday season isn’t complete without
watching Jimmy Stewart as the small-town hero in the classic
film, “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
So why catch it on the
radio? Because the live radio play goes beyond showing those
memorable scenes from the 1940s film. The NOVA Center for the
Performing Arts’ production connects to the era in a way a movie
can’t. “It’s a Wonderful Life: Live Radio Play” runs through
Dec. 20 at NOVA.
Six local actors take us back to Bedford
Falls for smooching on porch swings, leaving on the next train,
and pitching in to help the immigrants next door.
not so much the set, which is elaborately designed to mimic the
architecture of a 1940s radio studio with giant neon signs
announcing “applause” and “on air.” And it’s not the nostalgic
outfits, the wide ties and big curls. There is a sentimentality
that comes with being in the same room with these actors who so
refreshingly convey the innocence and shared struggle of small
communities during World War II.
All the little touches are here —
the soup can telephone, real tinsel and big lights on the
Christmas tree, and goofy commercials sung to Christmas melodies
pitching toilet cake soap and hair tonic. George and Mary walk
home together singing “Buffalo Gals” and they get caught necking
on the front porch.
Directed by Susan Sommerfeld with
assistance from Susan Scariano, the show features Craig Huisenga
as George Bailey and Anjanett Hawk as Mary. Pianist Kathy McLain
keeps the music flowing throughout the show with musical
direction by Darin Niebuhr.
Those voices are what get you.
Huisenga’s tenor has such a vulnerability to it, you mourn his
unfulfilled dreams at not accomplishing “big and important”
tasks on the other side of the world. And Hawk’s distinct voice
sounds like it could crack at any moment, but it doesn’t and
that’s part of playing Mary because she’s tougher than you would
imagine a 1940s housewife to be.
William Mouat takes on
several different roles, including the radio announcer, the
Grinch-like Mr. Potter and George’s goofball Uncle Billy. It’s a
wonder to watch Mouat slip into the different roles with a twist
of his jaw or a hunch of his back, all executed in a split
second. Kelsey Reid Steffan has the same challenge of performing
as several distinct characters, from George’s grade-school-aged
daughter to the town hussy, Violet Bick.
Newcomers to the
stage, Hilary and Levi Hunt, pitch in with Levi playing George’s
angel and Hilary running the prop table using ordinary items
like nails in a bucket, bells and hammers to create sound
effects. When she gets to turning the handle on the wind
machine, you could swear there’s a raging storm.
is sentimental, but it’s supposed to be because it’s OK to let
down your guard even if it’s just once a year.
Photographs by Hannah Potes, Billings Gazette.
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