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Adaptation turns Frank Capra’s 1947 movie into a radio broadcast
If you go...
“It’s a Wonderful Life: The Live Radio Play”
Where: McKeesport Little Theater, 1614 Coursin St.
When: Dec. 6, 7, 13, 14 at 7:30 p.m. and Dec. 8 and 15 at 2 p.m.
Tickets: $15 for adults, $10 for students.
Reservations or more information: 412-673-1100 or through the website.
McKeesport Little Theater, with its intimate setting and close proximity of the audience to the stage, is the perfect venue for “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play.”
Joe Landry adapted the play from the holiday movie classic, “It’s A Wonderful Life,” which features James Stewart as George Bailey. Landry’s twist was to stage it as a 1940’s radio play, performed before a live audience as a show within a show.
Director Kalee George said the show shaped up “wonderfully, no pun intended. The cast keeps coming back with more and more ideas in layers.”
The actors are dressed in costumes appropriate for the era, and because it is a radio play, most portray more than one character.
Or, in the case of Dan DeSimone, who supplies live music for the production, it’s more than one instrument with flute, accordion, ukulele, and violin.
The audience can see all the props lined up onstage, with hats and other accessories donned and discarded as characters change roles. Also key are items such as tap shoes and an old-fashioned bicycle horn, used to produce sound effects.
Harper York, listed with DeSimone as a band member, and others in the cast, are tasked with producing the correct sounds with those props as would have occurred with a radio broadcast to indicate a door slamming, someone being punched or hit, or a glass breaking, for example.
With all that to do, one of the advantages of the show as a radio play, is the actors read their lines from the script without having to memorize them.
“With rehearsals three times a week and trying to accommodate everyone’s work schedules, a radio show definitely is a benefit,” George said. “There’s a lot of talent in the cast from all walks of life.”
McKeesport Little Theater veteran Sean David Butler returns as George Bailey, with Devin Marshall as the angel Clarence, among their roles.
Dan Simon’s roles include Henry F. Potter, the main antagonist in the movie and radio play. Potter is described as the “richest and meanest” man in town, and the character is ranked among the top villains.
While the movie begins in 1919, the director said contemporary audiences still should have fun with the story and production.
“It’s very visual for a live 2019 audience,” George said. “And there have been so many renditions and takeoffs of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.’ “
Krista Cantrell is the stage manager for the MLT production and plays Stage Manager in the show.
“I’m an actor, so that’s what I’m used to doing, and what I need to do to stage manager is in the script,” Cantrell said.
Cast and Characters:
Dan Simon as Freddie Filmore, Joseph, Old Man Gower, Henry F. Potter, Peter Bailey, Old Man Collins, Ed, Man, Bridge Keeper, Cop
Sean David Butler as Jake Laurents, George Bailey, Young George
Betsy Novotny as Sally Applewhite, Mary, Young Mary, Band Member
Jessica Pierson-Turner as Lana Sherwood, Violet Bick, Young Violet, Pete, Janie
Devin Marshall as Harry “Jazzbo” Heywood, Clarence, Harry Bailey, Young Harry, Sam Wainwright, Charlie, Martini, Tommy, Sheriff
Barbara Harrold as Rose Bailey, Matilda, Ruth Dakin Bailey, Mrs. Hatch, Mrs. Thompson, Sadie Vance
Jared W Lewis as Billy Bailey, Ernie, Dr. Campbell, Man, Horace the Teller, Mr. Welch, Nick
Lydia Richardson as Bert, ZuZu, Binky, Band Member
Harper York as Band Member
Dan DeSimone as Band Member
Stage Manager Krista Cantrell as Stage Manager
Directed by Kalee George
Play adapted by Joe Landry from the film “It’s a Wonderful Life”
Bonnijean Cooney Adams is a contributing writer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally published December 06, 2019.