Entertainment :: Theatre

It’s a Wonderful Life Radio Play

by Drew Jackson
Friday Nov 30, 2012
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The cast of "It’s A Wonderful Life, The Radio Play"
The cast of "It’s A Wonderful Life, The Radio Play"  

Imagine your favorite holiday song. Now imagine you hear a new recording of your song when you turn on your radio. You feel a flush of nostalgia mixed with a freshness that allows you to enjoy the song in a new way. That’s what watching, and hearing, Watertower’s wonderful "It’s A Wonderful Life, The Radio Play" feels like.

In this heartwarming, amazing production, you’re actually treated to three stories in one. First, you get to see the story of a set of actors putting on a live radio play in the late 1940s from a Manhattan studio. Second, you get to hear the above-mentioned actors perform, to a live radio audience, their play, which is an adaptation of Frank Capra’s 1946 classic film "It’s A Wonderful Life." Finally, you get to feel the fable within the play when George Bailey is granted his despondent wish and gets to see what life in Bedford Falls would be like if he never was born.

In this homage to both the era of live radio and the Capra film everything works. It’s great fun to see the ’actors’ perform the play in the 1940ish studio set. And it’s enthralling to sit back and get lost in the story of "It’s A Wonderful Life." This is storytelling at its basic core. You could actually close your eyes and listen to the ’performance’ and easily imagine you’ve been transported back in time 65 years snuggling in front of a large radio.

This is storytelling at its basic core. You could actually close your eyes and listen to the ’performance’ and easily imagine you’ve been transported back in time 65 years snuggling in front of a large radio.

Mark Fleischer confidently directs his seven top-notch cast members through this one act marvel. Matthew Laurence Moore plays the actor performing the role of George Bailey. Lydia McKay plays the actress performing the role of George’s wife Mary. Jessica Cavanagh, B.J. Cleveland and Jim Johnson play the actors who provide voices for multiple characters in the radio play. Also on stage are Scott Eckert, who provides all of the play’s sound effects, and Erin McGrew who provides the background music for the play.

Matthew Laurence Moore is the real standout here in his portrayal of George. Handsome, lean and rangy, Moore creates an honest, genuine portrait of a man who has always yearned for big things but who discovers he already has everything a man could want and there’s more than a subtle nod to Jimmy Stewart (who played the role in the movie version) in his performance. With no lines to speak, Scott Eckert is amazing as he produces all the sound effects for the radio play.

It’s easy to become jaded this time of year when holiday decorations appear in stores before Halloween and Cyber Monday doesn’t even respect the calendar anymore. If you yearn for an old-fashioned holiday the way you envision they used to be, then check your cynicism at the door and enjoy this sentimental, heartfelt production of "It’s A Wonderful Life, The Radio Play."

"It’s A Wonderful Life, The Radio Play" runs through Dec. 16 at Watertower Theatre, 15650 Addison Road in Addison, Texas. For info or tickets, call 972-450-6232 or visit www.watertowertheatre.org

Drew Jackson was born in Brooklyn and has been writing ever since he graduated from NYC. He now lives in Dallas happily married to his husband Hugh. Jackson is a familiar fixture on the Dallas Forth Worth theater scene and is currently working on his next play.

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