We’d all like to think that our lives have made a
is why “It’s A Wonderful Life” appeals to so many
people. If only we would know how we have affected others in a
positive way, it would be a good remedy for our days of doubt
and despair. George Bailey had that rare chance to relive his
past life and discover his worth. So did Scrooge, but the
insights they derived were different.
Act Theatre is repeating its Christmas offering - “It’s A
Wonderful Life Live Radio Show” - which dishes up the old
classic with a different twist, one in which we are really
privy to three different stories simultaneously - the original
script, a backstage look at how radio worked in presenting a
drama you could hear and only imagine, and a third plot going
on between former lovers, Judy and James, who, by a happy
accident, are thrown together again in this swan song to a
defunct radio station.
people the radio crew, and they are quite flexible in the many
roles they tackle. David Cecsarini, who also directed the
show, does most of the sound effects, and takes on the
characters of Italian saloonkeeper, George’s father, Uncle
Billy and the town pharmacist. Bo Johnson is the crusty town
curmudgeon and one of George Bailey’s young boys.
Babich covers a wide range of female characters, from Zuzu,
Bailey’s little daughter, to a strident mother to Bailey’s
angel Clarence, who is trying to earn his wings by helping
George. Mary MacDonald Kerr, besides her role as writer of the
script, is a supportive Mary, George’s wife, and is also the
former girlfriend of James, the man who plays George, and she
proves compassionate toward him in his depression. As the play
ends, we are left hanging as they leave the studio together.
Everything has worked out fine with George and his family, but
we don’t know if Judy and James also will find each other
again. I liked the contrast. As in all radio shows, something
is left to the imagination.
Wilson Forbes, who directed all the music and plays the piano
at times, also takes on some cameo roles. Besides the
re-enactment of the play itself, the whole group renders some
old commercials with zest and harmony between acts and after
the curtain call. It is fun to hear some of those catchy tunes
again, especially if you’re old enough to remember them.
Moses, as George, proves again that he can play any role with
credibility and passion. How many times I have encountered
this story, and yet am moved to tears by George’s “return
to life.” I’ve never seen a more compelling interpretation
of this scene than the one created by Moses.
One of the
fascinations of this piece is definitely revisiting a radio
studio pre-TV when many dramas and comedies were standard fare
there. It’s hard for kids born in the 1950s and ‘60s to
imagine just listening to a story and not seeing it. A very
creative show, reminding us of days gone by and also the
resilience of the entertainment world. TV didn’t wipe out
radio or movies, and live theater lives on forever, thanks to
the talents of dedicated actors, directors, and tech staff and
design artists, who bring us amazing shows such as this.
A Wonderful Life Live Radio Show” runs through Jan. 5 at the
Next Act Theatre, 255 S. Water St., Milwaukee. For show times
and tickets, call 414-278-0765 or visit www.nextact.org.