- Next Act Theatre brings us a classic Christmas story, but in
a slightly different context.
play, “It’s a Wonderful Life Live Radio Show,” is being
presented as a radio show, but with a secondary story between
two of the actors in the cast.
Macdonald Kerr, one of the actors in the show, is also
responsible for adapting the original radio show into its
as the audience, are experiencing three stories simultaneously
- the original story, which we have probably all seen many
times on stage, TV or in film; the story, as told on radio
prior to TV, and the personal story between two of the actors,
a story which, in some ways, mirrors the George Bailey story,
one of despair and restoration.
I was made so aware of all the intricacies of the
behind-the-scenes work - actors taking multiple roles, the
creation of sound effects and the interpolation of
advertisements - I didn’t delve as deeply into the story
itself, except when Norman Moses’ poignant rendition of
George’s desperation forced me to blot out all else. His
portrayal is gut-wrenching.
chief fascination of the piece lay primarily in the art of
radio, the creation of drama by means of sound and imagination
only, and I often closed my eyes and drifted back to my
childhood when radio was our chief mode of entertainment. It
was somewhat similar to watching a movie or TV show on the
set, where reality supersedes illusion.
six cast members are all very flexible, changing roles
frequently and convincingly. All are comfortable and on cue
for the many variations demanded of them. David Cecsarini, who
also directed the show, takes care of many of the sound
effects, as well as creating the Italian saloon keeper and the
Johnson is the gruff town curmudgeon who cares more about
money than the townspeople. Then he is transformed into a
Babich covers a wide range of female characters, from children
to a strident mother to a narrating angel. Jack Forbes Wilson
showcases his musical and acting abilities on the piano and
the organ, as Clarence, the angel trying to earn his wings,
and as the composer of the jingles that sponsor the
Milwaukee-based radio station.
Kerr, besides her role as writer, is a supportive Mary,
George’s wife, and later shows her compassion and
understanding as Judy, James’ former girlfriend.
just as George, needs some affirmation in his role and in his
own personal life. Their relationship is left hanging as the
play ends. Maybe another angel who needs to earn his wings can
drop by to save it.
very creative piece reminding us of days gone by but also of
the resilience of the entertainment world. TV didn’t wipe
out radio or films as predicted, DVDs will probably not
eliminate movie theaters, and live theater goes on forever,
thanks to the efforts and talents of the dedicated actors and
directors, who, together with their tech crew and design
teams, collaborate on the amazing shows that continue to
inspire and entertain us.
a Wonderful Life Live Radio Show” runs through Dec. 9 at
Next Act Theatre, 255 S. Water St., Milwaukee.
For show times and tickets, call 414-278-0765 or visit