Back on the airwaves

cast of its a wonderful life

It's A Wonderful Life

Malvern Theatres

****

IT’S A Wonderful Life isn't just for Christmas, you know, it's for life.

The storyline may happen to open in the festive season, but most of the story is set around the rest of the year and based around the two life-affirming points; that no one is born to be a failure, and that no one is poor who has friends.

It’s 69 years since the film was released and although there have been a number of adaptations in the UK, including a musical version, unthinkably, it's never been done here as a radio play.

This version touring the UK is performed and designed as if for radio transmission.

The inspiration for this high-energy enjoyable adaptation was the Lux Radio Theater in Hollywood, which in its heyday in the 1930s and 40sjames Stewart, would put on abridged versions of famous movies for radio broadcast.

With one take in front of a live audience it would be performed in just a spoken format with sound effects and recorded with large microphones.

The original Lux Radio Theatre version of the film script was aired just months after the film’s release in 1947 and had James Stewart and Donna Reed reprising their screen roles as George and Mary Bailey.

James Stewart reprising his role as George in the Lux Radio Theater broadcast in 1947

This production is based on the classic film, set in the small town of Bedford Falls, where we are reacquainted with George, played by Oliver Stoney. He's a good man - ambitious, but so busy helping others that life seems to be passing him by, until one night he decides to end it all.

That's when Clarence Odbody AS2 (Angel Second Class) - the only available angel - is sent down to save him. Clarence, after 200 years, has yet to win his wings and still wears the nightgown he died in.

It's amazing to see just six actors playing 33 roles, David Benson, with 1,000 appearances as Gareth in one Man Two Guv’nors, plays Pa Bailey, Mr. Gower, Mr Potter and Officer Bert , for example, but a story within a story suits this kind of narrative storytelling.

Benjamin Chamberlain plays multiple roles and even has conversations with himself with plenty of laugh out moments, such as bar owner Nick saying "Get me, I'm giving out wings". There's also the Fast Show’s Arthur Atkinson style comedy when the radio show goes for commercial ad breaks between acts.

The reality of the ending makes this more than just a feel-good play. There are people who inspire others to do good and George is still one of those people. To 13-06-15

Johnathan Gray

09-06-15 

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