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 www.ignitiontheatre.ca.

Just Posted

CATena offers glimpse into Central Alberta Theatre’s new season

Visitors can also check out Memorial Centre refurbishments

Crews respond to diesel spill in Penhold

Individuals transferred diesel from one truck to the other

Local filmmaker works on documentary featuring women farmers

Red Deer woman receives $50,000 grant from STORYHIVE to produce documentary

Red Deer Rebels lose to Edmonton Oil Kings 4-1 at home opener

General Manager and Coach Brent Sutter said team ‘played hard’

Thurber Raiders snatch season opener from the Lacombe Rams

Red Deer game saw 44-8 win for the Raiders

Environment Canada confirms Ottawa area hit by two tornadoes Friday

At one point more than 200,000 hydro customers were blacked out

Cities make power play for new fiscal order with eye to 2019 federal election

Trudeau ordered Champagne to talk with provinces and territories about ways to “address the timeliness of the flow of funds” to projects.

Ottawa area residents take stock of tornado rubble as Ford tours the ruins

A tornado on Friday afternoon tore roofs off of homes, overturned cars and felled power lines in the Ottawa community of Dunrobin and in Gatineau, Que.

Trudeau arrives at United Nations, hoping to re-establish Canada on world stage

Trudeau is beginning his day at the opening of the Nelson Mandela Peace Summit, where he’s scheduled to deliver brief remarks later this afternoon.

Trump drains oxygen from Trudeau foreign policy with PM, Freeland bound for UN

A lot has changed since the Liberals came to power in Canada in 2015

Coaches, players on Alberta university rugby team buckle up for the Broncos

16 people died when Humboldt Broncos bus collided with a semi-truck in rural Saskatchewan

The Vatican ‘owes God an apology,’ activist says in letter to Pope Francis

Letter came after a report on sexual abuse of more than 1,000 children in six Pennsylvania dioceses

Ottawa to name new ambassador for women, peace and security, Freeland says

Chrystia Freeland also confirmed Canada would spend about $25 million to fund number of initiatives

‘A little bright spot:’ Ottawa residents rescue dog trapped beneath rubble

Freelance journalist says rescue of a dog trapped under rubble was happy ending amid chaos in Ottawa

Most Read