Review Roundup: IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE: A LIVE RADIO PLAY at Walnut Street Theatre - What Did The Critics Think?

Review Roundup: IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE: A LIVE RADIO PLAY at Walnut Street Theatre - What Did The Critics Think?

IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE: A LIVE RADIO PLAY runs through December 17 at Walnut Street Theatre.

The art of storytelling is heavenly when you discover IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE. The holiday classic comes to life anew, with five actors including an imaginative sound-effects artist, as a radio play! George Bailey dreams of traveling the world. His plans are postponed when the family business faces financial problems. Down on his luck, Bailey is at the end of his rope. He questions his purpose in life and considers ending it all. Just then, an angel arrives to show Bailey how the lives of those he loves would be affected if he were not around.

The cast stars Tabitha Allen as Sally Applewhite, Damon Bonetti as Jake Laurents, Jessica Johnson as Lana Sherwood, Michael P. Toner as Harry 'Jazzbo' Heywood, and Josh Totora as Freddie Filmore. The cast also includes Michael Arigot, Hannah Hammel, Kristen Spangenberg, and Sean Vermiere.

IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE: A LIVE RADIO PLAY is directed by Jesse Bernstein, with music and vocal direction by Josh Totora, set design by Scott Groh, lighting design by Shon Causer, costume design by Rebecca Dwight, and sound design by Damien Figueras.

Let's see what the critics had to say!

Tim Dunleavy, DC Metro Theatre Arts: And the cast is up to the show's many challenges. Damon Bonetti is noble and sympathetic as George; like Jimmy Stewart, he has the power to bring a lump to the throat. Tabitha J. Allen gives Mary the right levels of sweetness and gumption, while the supporting cast jumps from voice to voice with zeal. Jessica Johnson is sassy as good-time girl Violet; Josh Totora (who is also the Musical Director) is stooped and crochety as mean old Mr. Potter; and Michael Toner brings a scratchy throat to Uncle Billy and a twinkle to Clarence the Angel. It's hard work, but they make it all seem like a breeze.

Mark Cofta, The Broad Street Review: Landry's superior, sincere version adds the station's Playhouse of the Air "live broadcast" thrills, including the actors' busy execution of the show's Foley sounds: the radio effects we normally hear but don't see. Johnson, for example, wears a pair of shoes tied around her neck so she can quickly click the heels together to sound like someone walking. Speaking into a glass makes a character sound like he's on a phone. Quickly bouncing a balloon approximates a car's rumble convincingly - who knew?

Toby Zinman, Phindie: The device of a "live radio play" offers so much more dramatic possibility than merely watching actors read their parts from hand-held scripts and rattle newspapers. But if you're in the mood for a misty-eyed, life-affirming moment, It's a Wonderful Life is the show for you.

Julia M. Klein, BVT News: Maybe, but thanks to this talented ensemble, smartly directed by Jesse Bernstein, and Landry's remarkably efficient script, the darn thing works. Heck if I didn't fight back a tear or two as George Bailey (the actor Jake Laurents, played by Damon Bonetti) discovers that his modest life of mortgage-lending and self-sacrifice is actually rich in family, friendship, and love.

Photo: Mark Gavin

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