A glittering Christmas tradition has returned to the City with the staging of It’s a Wonderful Life: The Live Radio Drama.
Presented by Ignition Theatre, the show ran about three times several years back, and is a welcome holiday offering that is slated to run Dec. 6th-8th and the 11th-15th in the Nickle Studio (located in the Memorial Centre).
Curtain is at 7:30 p.m.
According to the synopsis, after George Bailey wishes he had never been born, an angel is sent to earth to make George’s wish come true.
George starts to realize how many lives he has changed and impacted, and how they would be different if he was never there.
Directed by Dustin S. Lawrence and adapted by Tony Palermo, the show features a stellar cast who bring the compelling and engaging production to life.
Having previously been staged at the former Ignition Theatre and the Welikoklad Event Centre downtown, this season the production will be held at the aforementioned Nickle Studio – a smaller venue but a very suitable one, explained Lawrence.
“Especially because it’s a radio show, I think that it’s pretty realistic. When you think about how it was back in the 1940s when they were doing radio shows, there would have been four or five people in a little booth,” he said.
In putting the production together, Lawrence said that first off, it’s an era that he has a special fondness for.
“I grew up watching all of the classic movies and listening to radio shows,” he explained. “So I really want my version of it to be something of a love letter to that time period. It’s such a unique show. It’s not like watching It’s a Wonderful Life being staged.
“But there is a reason we do it as a radio play – there are certain things that work very well with it being done this way,” he said.
Lawrence said with a smaller cast of about 10 as opposed to past shows which featured about 17 actors, it really gives them a chance to keep things really focused on the message from the story.
“It’s more just a chance (for audiences) to be really able to sit, enjoy and experience a really fantastic story. It’s a story about hope, and in the world we are living in right now, that kind of message is very much needed especially at Christmastime,” he said.
Another delightful aspect of this show is how the audience is free to utilize their own imaginations to a greater degree. The words are spoken with loads of expression, but the visuals are obviously largely in the ‘mind’s eye’. And as Lawrence said, it’s a remarkable means of retelling what has become an enduring holiday classic.
A film version of It’s a Wonderful Life was released in 1946 starring Jimmy Stewart in the lead role. It was based on the short story and booklet The Greatest Gift which was written by Philip Van Doren in 1939.
“For me, the challenge that I’ve been excited about is the directing of it, because I’m familiar with the movie and I’m familiar with the play, and I was in the play as well,” he explained. “So now I get to switch gears and make it my own, and work with some really talented people who have been in prior productions,” he said, adding there is also a nice mix between newcomers and those who have been featured in past shows.
“That for me is what I’m really excited about is just to dive in, and to make it as exciting and as fun as possible.
“This show is a nice little ‘hug’ for the holidays. And what we are trying to do here is to make this a part of Red Deer’s theatre tradition as well, which is really fantastic.”
Tickets are available at the door or by visiting www.ignitiontheatre.ca.