Center Stage with Pat Launer on KSDS JAZZ88
AIRDATE: DECEMBER 25, 2009
If you haven’t had your bellyful of Christmas yet, there’s one more wonderful holiday tradition that you just shouldn’t miss. Of course, you’re familiar with the classic 1946 film, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” But for the past four years, that heart-warming tear-jerker has sprung to fabulous life on Cygnet Theatre’s stage, as a live radio play.
This year, the show has moved into Cygnet’s new digs in Old Town , which gives the production room to stretch and breathe. There’s more space in the lobby for the cast to meet and greet the audience. More room for them to portray the characters they’re playing. Because the triple-layer of fun is that actors are playing actors who are playing characters. The radio show idea is actually rooted in history. In the late 1940s and early ‘50s, there were three radio adaptations of the film, and Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed appeared in all of them, recreating their iconic roles.
Since Cygnet began its successful annual venture, Tom Andrew, a terrifically talented actor and singer, has gotten under the skin of George Bailey, that hapless, good-hearted fellow from Bedford Falls , New York . His leading ladies have changed every year, and this time, it’s the beautiful Amanda Sitton as Mary, the girl who always loved George.
All his life, George just wanted to escape his crummy hometown, but life just kept getting in the way, preventing him from having the adventures he craved. So he stays on, reluctantly taking over the Building and Loan after his father dies, relentlessly battling the town meanie , Mr. Potter. Until one fateful Christmas Eve, when financial disaster strikes, and George finds himself on the edge of the precipice, about to jump off a bridge. Just in the nick of time, his guardian angel, Clarence, sweeps in to save George, and to show him how gray and lifeless, how unloving and ungrateful, the world would be without him. George’s stirring 11th-hour deliverance never fails to bring on a tight throat and a tear or two, a reminder of the power of love, and the importance each of us plays in our little corner of the universe.
Cygnet artistic director Sean Murray has assembled an outstanding cast, most of whom return, year after year, to take part in this inspiring celebration of life. The costumes are period-perfect, and the set, complete with light-up Applause signs, really brings you back to another time and place. In addition to the excellent music and sound-effects created by multi-instrumentalist and master Foley artist Scott Paulson, there are humorous old-time radio commercials and superbly sung carols that tie up the event with a bright red ribbon. It’s a super show for the family, and a poignant, joyful way to end a trying and difficult year.
“It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play” runs through December 31 at Cygnet Theatre in Old Town
©2009 PAT LAUNER