BWW Reviews: Orlando Shakes' IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE: A Live Radio Play is a Walk Down Memory Lane
The classic 1946 holiday movie, IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE comes to life on stage, but with an Orlando Shakes twist. Brilliantly staged as a live radio play, the audience gets to see and hear IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE as if it were being performed in as an old time radio show - cleverly branded WOST. This unique interpretation makes for a fun and thoroughly entertaining for young and old.
Based on the original film produced by Frank Capra and written by Joe Landry, we meet George Bailey played on the radio as Jake Laurents (Duke Lafoon). George is a good guy who longs to leave Bedford Falls, but one reason after another life happens and George never leaves. George does his best to make life better for everyone in town even when the greedy Mr. Potter tries to undermine George's business. Upon stumbling upon misfortune George wishes he was never born, which is when his guardian angel Clarence steps in to show the value George's life had on the entire town.
Billed as popular actors from the day: Freddie Filmore (David Edwards), Jake Laurents (Duke Lafoon), Lana Sherwood (Suzanne O'Donnell), Harry "Jazzbo" Heywood (Brad DePlanche), and Sally Applewhite (Piper Rae Patterson), are the five main performers that play 40 different characters in Bedford Falls. The only difficulty was keeping track of the characters as some actors played multiple people in one scene. As they read their various characters into the microphones using different accents and impressions, it is interesting to watch because not only are they reading, but they are acting for the stage. The staging was like a well-choreographed dance, as the actors used different microphones placed around the stage. The experience not only was listening, but watching the chemistry between the actors and sometimes scenes between themselves.
Have you ever wondered how sound effects are made? One of the most interesting characters is the non-speaking grumpy Foley artist (Chris Metz), who uses a variety of different props to create the sound effects. From the snapping of a leather belt to using a plunger in a bucket of water or slamming a tiny door, the sounds help flesh out the scenes. It was all done live and without cheap audio effects. Seeing effects done in real time as Metz hits each cue with precision timing is a great throwback to the times of old radio plays. It is easy to imagine getting lost in the story without any of the visual effects that TV has today.
The set seems to be a glitzy radio station with a live studio audience, complete with an on-air and applause sign. The audience is encouraged to emote so the radio listeners can hear the reactions. It truly takes the audience back to the days of old radio.
Be sure to arrive early (30-minutes) to watch the pre-show and have some holiday sing along fun. It's like a mini-show watching the actors set up the radio studio prior to the performance. Also, just like a radio show there are cute commercial breaks and jingles keeping the production light hearted. Overall IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE is a delightful production and much different than any holiday show out there.
Directed by Robert Cacioppo, IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE: A LIVE RADIO PLAY runs at Orlando Shakespeare Theater until December 29. It also features Lulu Picart (as the pianist for this performance), Joe Prior, Bridgette Hoover, Sophie Bell, A. Ross Neal, Jeffrey Todd Parrott, Anachebe Asomugha, Seth Wallen, Madeleine Childers, Marina Russell, and Hayley Shipley. For tickets and more information visit www.orlandoshakes.org.