Chapel Street Players Puts Nostalgic Twist on Holiday Favorite: IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE—A LIVE RADIO PLAY

by John Muller

Back in the day, families would gather around the radio to listen to serials that would be broadcast. Today, we have YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and many other media outlets that still provide “serials” in some fashion. Chapel Street Players took a favorite holiday story (It’s a Wonderful Life) and joined it with a classic way of storytelling (the radio play). IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE – A LIVE RADIO PLAY is the same story everyone is familiar with, based on the 1946 Frank Capra film; however, this version is done as a radio play where the audience is the “studio audience” and the stage looks the way a radio station would have looked during the beginnings of radio broadcasting.

As most of us are familiar with the story (it’s only presented in film form at least once a day on various TV stations leading up to Christmas), I won’t go too deeply into the story. Suffice to say, there is a man that is feeling pretty down, an angel tries to help him out before he “ends it all” and helps the man find the true meaning of life…living.

This particular production has a multi-talented cast with the chops to pull off different voices, accents and characterizations without batting an eye. Since they are all “radio” actors, they don’t change costume while playing multiple characters. They must do that with their body language, gestures, and voices. I must say that I was very pleased with the precision of acting that was happening on the stage throughout the two hour production. The stage was set in holiday theme and musical numbers were there for an audience participation session that went beyond the “applause” sign.

Joseph Pukatsch creates live sound effects for IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE – A LIVE RADIO PLAY at Chapel Street Players. (Photo credit: Che-Yu (Peter) Kuo)

Walt Osborne was the perfect announcer, engaging the audience throughout the show with some well-honed wit. He gave us a few impressions at the opening of the show, which were marvelous. Dennis Williams, as George Bailey, carried the presence of the character throughout the show, taking the audience through the character’s plights with grace and finesse. He portrayed George Bailey wonderfully making him a character with whom the audience could identify. Nichole White as Mary Hatch was perfectly cast, as she brought the nurturing and loving character to life for us and delivered a high caliber performance that was memorable and sincere. Finally, Clarence (the angel trying to earn his wings by saving George Bailey from himself) was played by Christian Watson with such ease and sophistication that the audience could not help itself in wanting him to be successful in his quest.

All of the technical elements of the show were amazing. The lighting was perfectly designed and staged. The live piano player, Bill Fellner, and the Sound Effects Guy, Joe Pukatsch, spent the entire show on stage, which is not usually the case in plays, as active participants in the show and story. This was a fun spectacle that really added to the overall atmosphere of the show.

IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE – A LIVE RADIO PLAY is a great evening of holiday cheer, with a great lesson on what truly is important in our lives. The classic story continues to live on, as it is played in so many different mediums today; this is just one of them. It plays for one more weekend and should definitely be a part of your holiday calendar.

Chapel Street Players’ production of IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE – A LIVE RADIO PLAY runs through December 13th.

Written by Frank Capra
Radio Script Adopted by Liz Zazzi
Directed by Brian M. Touchette
December 5 – 13, 2014
Chapel Street Players
27 North Chapel Street
Newark, DE 19711

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