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BWW Review: IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE: A LIVE RADIO PLAY at Lucie Stern Theatre

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TheatreWorks returns to live performances at the Lucie Stern Theatre with a totally enjoyable, wonderfully crafted radio play.

BWW Review: IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE: A LIVE RADIO PLAY at Lucie Stern Theatre

It's A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play

Adapted by Joe Landry

Directed by Giovanna Sardelli

TheatreWorks Silicon Valley

It might be hard to find someone unfamiliar with Frank Capra's 1946 versions of A Christmas Carol, Christmas family fantasy that populates every best film poll. It appealed to post WWII audiences with its themes of family, loss and second chances and has remained a popular holiday favorite ever since. TheatreWorks returns to live performances at the Lucie Stern Theatre with a totally enjoyable, wonderfully crafted radio play featuring five outstanding performances covering dozens of roles.

Radio plays were hugely popular with audiences' pre-television and most people can recall the infamous 1938 Mercury Theatre production of War of the Worlds that caused a panic among listeners. Joe Landry is no stranger to radio play adaptations, having worked on versions of A Christmas Carol, The 39 Steps, and Meet Me in St. Louis. Working off the original screenplay by Frances Goodrich, Albert Hackett, Frank Capra and Jo Sterling, Landry wisely condenses the cogent plotlines to a manageable timeline.

BWW Review: IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE: A LIVE RADIO PLAY at Lucie Stern Theatre
Mary ( Sarita Ocon) and George *Moses Villarama)

In this production, a young man enters an old radio dust-filled radio studio and discovers a phonograph LP which he begins to play. Its an old broadcast recording of It's a Wonderful Life and the young man (Moses Villarama) transforms into 12-year-old George Bailey. Sarita Ocon plays Sally Applewhite (Mary Bailey) and many of the comic product advertisements characters that punctuate the play.

The story unfolds with a stellar cast of three actors playing interchangeable roles, many with split second changes. Luisa Shermol plays Lana Sherwood the actor playing Violet amongst many others. Phil Wong plays Freddie Fillmore, the radio play announcer, the evil Mr. Potter and many others. Todd Cerveris rounds out this amazing cast as Harry "Jazzbo" Heywood, the actor playing Harry Bailey and the Guardian Angel Clarence.

BWW Review: IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE: A LIVE RADIO PLAY at Lucie Stern Theatre
Phil Wong, Moses Villarama, Luisa Sermol and Todd Cerveris

The bulk of the foley work sound effects are handled by the female actors and run from the weather, car horn and the sound of clinking ice cubes in drinks. The rapid-fire change in characters is adroitly handled by these fine actors and with the slightest change in inflection or facial movements can create new characters. It's a joy to behold, expertly corralled by director Giovanni Sardelli.

As expected, the productions levels are what we've come to expect of a TheatreWorks production; from Christopher Fitzer's 1940's studio set, to Cathleen Edwards period costumes, Steve B. Mannshardt's lighting, and Jane Shaw's sound design. This is a great chance not only to revel in It's a Wonderful Life again, but to experience to thrill of the original performance methods of days gone by.

It's A Wonderful Life runs through December 26th, 2021. Tickets can be purchased at online threatreworks.org or by calling 877-662-8978

Photo Credit: Kevin Berne


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