The Players Theatre presents It’s A Wonderful Life.
The classic holiday movie It’s A Wonderful Life will be on television once more this weekend, but the Players Theatre has—sort of—beaten the network to the draw with its current production of a similarly titled show about the impact one man’s life can have on so many others.
Technically, the show should be styled as Live from WVL Radio Theatre: It’s A Wonderful Life. It’s a re-enactment of the story of George Bailey and Bedford Falls as presented by a radio station that itself has fallen on hard times (and it’s a little bit reminiscent of another holiday-themed show you may have seen in years past, The 1940s Radio Hour).
Here the action begins as Lee Wright (Rafael Petlock), the sound effects man for WVL, informs the station owner’s daughter, Evelyn (Alana Opie), that with most of the cast of Life stranded out of town by a snowstorm, the show must go on, because the station is on the verge of closing. It’s not really that clear why going on with the show will save the station, but, like George with his building and loan, Lee has a mission to keep it from going under. It doesn’t hurt that he’s drawn to Evelyn romantically. There’s also a relationship (supposedly secret at first) between actors Mays (Paul Hutchison) and Kitty (Donna DeFant); the cast is rounded out by Ren Pearson as Lane, who takes over the sound effects work so Lee can perform, and a singing trio (Cinda Goeken, Carrie Lutz and Sarita Roche) who periodically render Christmas carols and commercial jingles.
There’s not really much development of any of the station’s employees or stories, though, because the bulk of the show is taken up with bringing life to Life’s many characters, with only five voices. Everyone pitches in, and it’s fun to see them switching back and forth between adults and children, going from immigrant Italian to fumbling angel to mean old Mr. Potter, all in a matter of seconds. It’s also kind of fun to take in how the sound effects are produced (a bucket of water gets a lot of use as Harry falls into the pond, George and Mary into the pool, etc.).
Petlock has the most to do, and he attacks his various roles with zest, especially George. He’s nothing like Jimmy Stewart, and that’s fine; it gives us a chance to see and root for a new George. The other cast members all have some funny and poignant moments to shine, too; and the action moves along swiftly under director Pam Wiley’s touch. You’re reminded here (as you will be if you tune in to TV’s rebroadcast) how relevant the background of It’s A Wonderful Life remains today; there are obvious echoes in its depiction of greedy bankers, the threat of foreclosures and, yes, something about the 99 percent vs. the 1 percent.
It’s A Wonderful Life continues through Dec. 18; call 365-2494 or go to theplayers.org.