Is it, really?
It’s a Wonderful Life
It’s a wonderful idea: Take a beloved holiday movie and turn it into a “live” radio show “airing” in the year the film was released. In a nice twist to overly done holiday shows, Foothill Theatre Company is presenting It’s a Wonderful Life as a 1946 radio broadcast, complete with blinking “applause” signs, fun sound-effects gizmos and even silly musical commercials.
The WBFR radio station Art Deco set radiates a mid-’40s atmosphere, augmented by the period outfits of the broadcasters—the concept being that actors are recreating a “live” broadcast before a studio audience “airing coast-to-coast.”
At the show’s center is the story of George Bailey of Bedford Falls, an everyman who wishes he had never been born, and Clarence, an angel earning his wings by convincing George he’s had a wonderful life. And of course, we get all the memorable scenes: the singing of “Buffalo Girls,” the Building and Loan dramas, the lassoing of the moon, and Zuzu’s flower petals.
Six actors provide the voices of all the characters, with three of them primarily portraying the leads—Christopher W. Jones as George Bailey, Jenni Stephenson as Mary and Ted Barton as Clarence. The other three, Paulette Gilbert, Scott Gilbert and Les Solomon, round out the cast.
Scott does double duty as the “folio” man, creating the background noises from his sound effects booth with bells, a xylophone, blocks of wood, wind machines, bristled brushes and corn flakes. It’s a kick to see how the sounds are produced, as well as watching the actors portray the numerous characters by merely changing their voices. The gifted cast looks like they’re having a hoot recreating this radio program, and the audience is happy to go along on the ride.
By the time George finally yells, “Merry Christmas, movie house! Merry Christmas, Emporium! Merry Christmas, you wonderful old Building and Loan,” the audience is ready to spill out of the Foothill Theatre to wish all the Victorian-era Nevada City buildings a Merry Christmas, as well.