CLASSIC TALE- Ryan Matilla plays the lead role of George Bailey in Ignition Theatre’s rendition of It’s a Wonderful Life: The Live Radio Drama. The play runs through Dec. 18.

Wonderful Life lives up to its name

If you need to find a way into the Christmas spirit, Ignition Theatre’s staging of It’s A Wonderful Life: The Live Radio Drama will help you get there.

Directed by Jeremy Robinson, the show runs through Dec. 18 and curtain is at 7:30 p.m.

The play faithfully tells the story of the classic film with strong performances by a large cast of actors. Ryan Matilla is George Bailey, the self-sacrificing banker whose big dreams remain unrealized his whole life in Bedford Falls, the small town he can’t seem to escape.

Short $8,000 on Christmas Eve and with a warrant out for his arrest, George is ready to jump off a bridge when the Building and Loan he runs can’t produce the funds it needs to stay afloat.

It’s the first time in his life the man who constantly helps people in dire straits needs a bail out himself.

Comparisons to the film are inevitable, and Matilla has big shoes to fill. Jimmy Stewart’s role in the much-loved movie was a career defining performance for what is considered by the American Film Institute one of the most inspirational films of all time.

And Matilla delivers, giving a performance that carries the show. Where Stewart is brash and bold, Matilla is bumbling and believable as the man whose generosity and self-sacrifice bring him to the point of suicide on Christmas Eve.

In the first moments of the show when actors appear through the curtain, a sliver of scarlet is dramatically lit to welcome the large cast onstage. It’s a striking visual that foreshadows the emotional landscape of the story: at first sombre but ultimately very rich.

The stark stage and simple design suggests the barrenness George himself encounters in his own life. Being a radio performance, 16 actors stand at microphones to recreate the story.

In shadow when not speaking, the actors burst to life under lights to perform, just like the flashes of memory George has when revisiting key moments of his life.

Audiences of all ages will enjoy the live sound effects produced in real time by Dustin Clark who is a star of the show in his own right. He recreates the soundscape for the live radio drama with its doors creaking, change rattling and the inevitable ringing bell. Clark also earns well-deserved laughs for the sponsorship jingles he sings to lead audiences into both intermissions.

Robinson draws out well-rounded performances from actors who volunteered their time for Ignition’s annual holiday show.

Paul Boultbee is delightfully sinister as Henry Potter, the richest man in town whose underhanded tactics nearly push George over the brink.

Matt Dale gets some of the shows biggest laughs as the bank examiner, one of a number of roles he plays. And Paul Sutherland, Carla Falk, and Michael Sutherland round out the play with engaging, strident and rich characterizations.

Visually simple and dramatically complex, the play delivers on what its title promises: a live radio show that reminds us what is truly wonderful about life.

Group rates are available at The Matchbox box office by phone at 403-341-6500 or online at

Just Posted

Let the Games begin!

Team Alberta takes home gold and silver in speed skating on day one

‘Mitts don’t just warm hands. They warm hearts’: Mitts for Many Program launches

Donate new or lightly used mittens to bin in the Great Hall of the Gary W. Harris Centre

WATCH: Historic night in Red Deer as 2019 Canada Winter Games kicks off

Star-studded Opening Ceremony welcomes athletes from across Canada

Athletes’ medals unveiled at the official opening of 2019 Canada Winter Games

Medals depict Central Alberta landscape and pay tribute to First Nations

Red Deer RCMP arrest man after vehicle theft from dealership

Police were able to disable the SUV with assistance from the built-in vehicle assistance system

Fashion Fridays: Up your beauty game

Kim XO, helps to keep you looking good on Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

Ontario police field complaints over Amber Alert for missing girl, 11, found dead

Some said the Amber Alert issued late Thursday for Riya Rajkumar disrupted their sleep

LOCATED: Innisfail RCMP looking for missing woman

Amanda Kucher was last seen at the Innisfail 7-Eleven on Feb. 15

Red Deer College transforms into Athletes’ Village

Red Deer College’s campus will be home for the athletes during the 2019 Canada Winter Games

Alberta minor hockey team, slammed for Indigenous dance video, forfeits season

Parents say season was too dangerous to finish because the team has been threatened

Trump officially declares national emergency to build border wall

President plans to siphon billions from federal military construction and counterdrug efforts

Father to be charged with first-degree murder in Amber Alert case

11-year-old Riya Rajkumar was found dead in her father’s home in Brampton, Ontario

Red Deer man loses car after being caught twice driving with suspended licence

The Ponoka Integrated Traffic Unit ticketed the man in December and on Valentine’s Day

January home sales were weakest since 2015, average national price falls: CREA

CREA says the national average price for all types of residential properties sold in January was $455,000

Most Read