For their production of It’s a Wonderful Life, A Live Radio Play written by Joe Landry and directed by Tom Width, Swift Creek Mill Theatre has transformed their stage into WBFR Radio Studios in 1946 New York City.
The familiar story is given a different twist in this adaptation as it is played out as a live radio show that the audience is able to view behind the scenes. The large cast of characters is performed by only five actors, as well as a stage manager, played by Paul Deiss who also provided the musical arrangements for the play.
The talented cast of five performed several parts a piece often changing their voices three or four times in one scene. What was really impressive was seeing how sound effects were being made for the radio.
For example, a suitcase mounted would be opened and shut to sound like a taxi door and celery crackled to sound like breaking ice.
At times it was fun just to watch Deiss waiting to punctuate a scene, wearing goggles and holding a rock over glass he intended to break.
George Bailey played by Joe Pabst does an incredible job of being idealistic and tortured at the same time – he really captured the essence of the familiar character. Georgia Rogers Farmer and Jennifer Frank did an amazing job transforming into their numerous characters, as well as authentic ladies of the 1940s.
John Stock Maddox plays Clarence, George Bailey’s guardian angel, and this performance was the strongest of the night. He plays Clarence with a naïve charm and unassumingness that pulls at the audience’s heart strings.
Alia Radabaugh and Matt Armentrout captured a time when people got dressed for an occasion, even if they were on the radio. Their costumes looked expensive and authentic, pulling the audience back in time.
The piece picks up steam in the second act after a few slow points in the first – overall, Swift Creek Mill brings a charming and interesting take to a much-loved classic.
“It’s A Wonderful Life” runs through Dec. 31 at Swift Creek Mill Theatre, 17401 Jefferson Davis Hwy, Colonial Heights, VA 23834. For tickets and showtimes, visit here.
Jen Maciulewicz is theatre critic for GAYRVA.com and is a Richmond local. Jen attended VCU and holds a B.S. in Anthropology. She has starred as Reno Sweeney in Cole Porter’s “Anything Goes" and attended VCU’s School of Music. Follow Jen on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jenlaumac.