Live Radio Theater: “It’s a Wonderful Life” in SF

“Merry Christmas, George Bailey!” the 1947 radio adaptation of “It’s a Wonderful Life,” complete with ads for Lux soap, sponsors of the original broadcast, will be staged by Seneca Community Players as the final production for their 2010 season.Performed as a radio play, along with the entertaining ads for Lux delivered by Hollywood reporter Libby Collins, played by Carrie Massie and Hollywood actress Susan Blanchard, played by Leigh McGonagle, the play is based on the original Lux Radio Theatre version of 1947 and will be offered as part of the It’s A Wonderful Life event in Seneca Falls.The cast appears in 1940’s costumes, and the acting is done around old-fashioned microphones. When they aren’t performing, the cast of 20 actors, 2 sound effects artists and 2 pianist sit off to the side, though they don’t get much downtime. With the exception of Brad Backman, who takes Jimmy Stewart’s role as George Bailey (complete with a hint of Stewart’s trademark cadence), each of the actors plays from two to as many as five roles.The cast also provides the sounds of crowd scenes both chaotic and joyful, and Jane Roberts who along with Steve Mitchell masterly handle the sound effects, delivers a terrific impression of an angry dog. The script researched and compiled by it’s director, Becky Bly, assisted by Kathy Hadley and Pam Bryan, boils the movie down to it’s essentials: Clarence played by Pete Saracino, a child-like angel who hasn’t managed to earn his wings, is sent to Earth to try to prevent George Bailey from killing himself when after a particularly bad day decides that he’s worth more dead than alive. Clarence using information shown to him by Joseph played by Eric Jansen, concerning the important events of George’s life, tries to convince George that he has had a wonderful life, after all.Audience participation is encouraged and guided by signs calling for applause and a brief warm-up by stage manager, Kathy Hadley. The show moves along at a brisk pace, and runs approximately 75 minutes.As a special treat for those attending the It’s A Wonderful Life festivities on Saturday Dec. 11, many of the actors will be performing vignettes from the play in character on the street. The Lux Radio Theatre 1947 radio play actors included, Jimmy Stewart, Donna Reed and Victor Moore. The original story written by Philip Van Doren Stern in 1943, was called The Greatest Gift, and was sold to Frank Capra’s Production Company where it was adapted into the movie, It’s a Wonderful Life. Additional key characters in the SCP production include: Mary Hatch played by Mariah Fegley, Mr Potter played by Jim Bero, Uncle Billy played by John King, and Stephen Beals as the radio show host, William Keighley as well as many other talented local actors. Performances of “Merry Christmas, George Bailey!” are being held at the “Bedford Falls Bijou Theater”, 100 Fall St., Seneca Falls, NY, known to long-time Seneca Falls residents as the old Crayton’s Drugstore building. Show dates and times are December 5th at 6pm, December 9th at 7pm, December 11th at 6pm and December 12th at 1pm. Doors will open 30 minutes prior to the show with refreshments offered before the show only, as there will be no intermission.

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