Walk into the lobby and you feel as if you've stepped 60 years back in time. Everyone from the cast and crew are dressed in period costume. From the theater you can hear the Jingle Belles, the on-air all-women trio, singing Christmas carols to greet the studio audience as they file in to take their seats. A quick set of "on air" instructions from the program director and 3,2,1 we're live on the set of "It's a Wonderful Life" being performed in the WFAL studio.
With a mere six actors playing all the roles in the production, it goes without saying that being on stage is a busy affair. Michael C. Potter admirably tackles the role of George Baily, giving the character equal parts angst, remorse and joy. Caitlyn Rose Allison is superb as Mary Hatch Baily. Those of you who caught her performance earlier this season in Tartuffe will recognize her playful sassiness. Peter Weiglin plays Clarence, the guardian angel sent to save George Baily, but also takes turns as Harry Bailey and Mr. Potter among others. The primary onstage cast rounds out with Jim Waldfogle, Lisa D. Dirkes, Adrianne Underhill and the very believable radio announcer, Bill Keaton.
As we journey through George Bailey's life, it's easy to close your eyes and truly believe you're part of a live radio audience. The sound effects are all generated the old-fashioned way...with a small wooden door, with glass bottles and with a realistic phonograph to name a few. Amber Samblanet and David Levy do a great job accenting the radio drama with well-timed sounds and voices.
With two intermissions (complete with singing commercials courtesy of the Jingle Belles) nothing in the radio drama feels over-long or over-done. All critical timing points are cued by the program director which adds to the authentic feel of the production. The authenticity extends to the studio audience as well, who are cued to laugh and clap via a large APPLAUSE sign suspended in front of the stage.
All in all the Falcon Theater production of "It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Drama" is a true treat. If you've never gone to Monmouth theater to see this clever troupe, now is the perfect time to revisit a classic holiday story, done with a new twist.
Special thanks to Julie Niesen, aka Wine Me Dine Me in Cincinnati, for the invitation to the play!
Check out another blogger's review: Radio Carla - Media...and Life Observer
Apologies for the low-res photos...amazing as it may seem, I forgot to take a camera, and was forced to rely on my trusty Blackberry for pix of the performance.