It’s a Wonderful Life, The Radio Play at Theatre Unleashed through December 18.
Adapted by Jim Martyka
Directed by Jenn Scuderi Crafts
Well, what would the holiday season be without an old faithful like "It’s a Wonderful Life."
Theatre Unleashed, the classics with a twist experts, ensure that our season is complete with this venerable version of the beautiful short story written by Philip Van Doren Stern which Frank Capra made famous in his film adaptation in 1945 starring James Stewart as George Bailey.
The play opens on the set of a radio station in the 1940s. It’s minutes before their radio performance of "It’s a Wonderful Life" and the stakes are very high. The station manager, in a last-ditch attempt to save the ailing station from ruin, has booked a couple of movie stars to play George and Mary. But at the last minute he discovers they won't be coming. In desperation, he takes on the role of George himself and gives the role of Mary to his long-suffering girlfriend. The rest of the roles are shared amongst several regular actors at the station and a couple of new faces, one of whom seems to be a homeless man.
The set up for the radio play performance is brilliantly choreographed by this lively company. Lots of rushing around, actors arriving, singers rehearsing and tempers tested. Those of us who work in the arts know all to well how frequently last-minute changes and various other disasters can occur. So the very believable mixture of panic, playfulness and “it’ll be alright on the night” sit very well indeed. The story itself is of course so well known and so iconic that it’s somehow quite surprising how fresh and relevant it feels as the fantastic actors at Theatre Unleashed perform the play. The themes are, as they ever are with excellent writing, timely, real and totally relatable. But it’s the second story, the story of the radio station and everyone working together to make something special happen that really takes center stage, so to speak.
The actors are all utterly compelling and endearing, they struggle with the sound effects, the pressure of the night and their own various hangups and all with smiles and warmth and a very real sense of family. Every cast member was perfection, all heartachingly committed and perfectly in-sync with each other. I have to say I was smiling so much my face ached.
What we all need this Christmas, perhaps more than ever, is to be reminded of our humanity, our generosity and our faith in our fellow humans.
"It’s a Wonderful Life" is surely one of the best examples of that…
Theatre unleashed in their lovely ‘Belfry’ home in NoHo never disappoint. They are always ready to innovate and experiment, they never shy away from the avant-garde or the interesting, while still maintaining a brilliant sense of the classic and the familiar.
"It’s a Wonderful Life, The Radio Play" at Theatre Unleashed is a heavenly and unmissable Christmas charmer. I highly recommend it, bring your friends and family along, just to be reminded what’s truly important.
The show runs from November 30th through December 18th Wednesday,
Friday at 8PM and Sunday at 2PM
Spencer Cantrell, Courtney Sara Bell, Margaret Glaccum, Steve Peterson, Sammi Lappin, Lee Pollero, Andy Justus, Jennifer Ashe, Graydon Schlichter, Carey Matthews, Ariana Weiss, Molly Moran, Caroline Sharp.
Beth Scorzato - Stage Manager
Tony Gonzalez - Music
Gregory Crafts - Light Design
Ann Hurd - Scenic Design