After just a few years, Ignition Theatre’s production of It’s a Wonderful Life: The Live Radio Drama has already become something of a local holiday tradition.
This year’s rendition, directed by Jeremy Robinson, hits the City Centre Stage Dec. 15-18. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. with curtain at 7:30 p.m. There is also a matinee at 2 p.m. on Dec. 18.
The production, based on the screenplay by Frank Capra, Francis Goodrich and Albert Hackett, has been adapted for the stage by Tony Palmero.
Set in a glamorous theatre in the 1950s, 16 actors re-create more than 40 roles in this beloved retelling of the classic story of George Bailey one fateful Christmas Eve.
After years of several setbacks, Bailey has finally come to terms with his life in Bedford Falls when Uncle Billy mistakenly misplaces the Building and Loans bank deposit, calling into question if the money was stolen.
With an investigation looming and seemingly nowhere to turn, Bailey contemplates ending his life on Christmas Eve when he is sent a guardian angel from heaven named Clarence to show him what the world would be without him.
“The show will look as it did last season, the grand style of a touring
Hollywood radio drama with even more glamour and style in the new
venue at City Centre Stage,” explains Matt Grue, artistic director for Ignition Theatre. “Also, there are several cast changes, however Ryan Matilla returns in his role of George Bailey and Dustin Clark is back providing live on-stage sound effects and catchy jingles throughout the evening.”
Rounding out the cast are Chantel Hutchison as Mary Bailey, Michael Sutherland as Mr. Potter and Matt Dale as Clarence Oddbody.
Also featured are Starlise Waschuk, Derek Olinek, Debby Allan, Paul Sutherland, Kari Kinnear, Jason Steele, Carla Falk, Lee Weselak, Jamie Falk, Ty Boyce, Ava Shannon with KG Country’s Greg Shannon as ‘The Announcer’ and Dustin Clark as ‘The Sound Engineer’.
As Grue explains, the appeal of the stage version is the same as the movie, which was released in 1946 and remains a favourite holiday feature every year. “We are reminded how invaluable our relationships are and how despite the hustle and bustle of our hectic lives, family and friends are what matters most – and during the holiday season that message resonates even more profoundly.
“But our production in particular, I think, transports the audience back to a forgotten time when the celebrities of the world were just voices, where the communal experience of live entertainment was an even more profound experience than it is today.
“I’m always amazed how a play featuring actors in front of microphones has been as popular as it has been, and it’s because the audience (with the help of our lighting and sound designers) gets to use their imaginations,” he adds. “They create their own experience.”
Robinson is an ideal director for the sensibilities of the production as well, adds Grue.
“He understands the language of the 50s, the tone, the style and he also zeroes in on the heart of the story. In particular, he managed to really draw out the love story between George and Mary and really made the production less about the ‘gimmick’ of a live radio drama, and more about the message, the relationships and the heart,” says Grue.
“I wouldn’t want anybody else at the helm of this production.”
The show has also become an annual fundraiser for Ignition Theatre.
“It’s a Wonderful Life was developed as an opportunity for Ignition to branch out into the community and welcome performers to our stage who likely would not have had another opportunity with our company,” he says. “With that, we were also looking for ways in which we could fundraise without holding a typical fundraiser and instead do what we were already doing and engage and mobilize the artistic community to participate in Ignition’s sustainability.
“So, we married those two ideas with It’s a Wonderful Life – a
holiday production that has been incredibly popular with our audiences. It’s also completely volunteer-driven, meaning that with the exception
of minimal production expense, all of the proceeds go directly into
Ignition Theatre programming.”
Tickets for It’s A Wonderful Life: The Live Radio Drama are available through Ticket Central by calling 403-347-0800 or by visiting www.ticketcentraloutlet.ca.