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“It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play” A Nostalgic Look Back at Capital Stage

Among all the different holiday icons, one that stands out is the 1947 black and white film, “It’s A Wonderful Life.” It is a must-see event for many during the holidays.

Playwright Joe Landry, also known for his stage adaptation of the cult film, “Reefer Madness,” has taken the story of “It’s A Wonderful Life” and integrates it into his play, “It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play,” as if the it had been performed as a nationally broadcast radio play prior to being turned into the beloved film that it is today.  Capital Stage is in the middle of a very short run of the show.  

Many Sacramento Press readers may ask, “What is a radio play?”

Long before today’s audio and video media streaming to your smart phone, prior to television, folks sat around their living rooms in the evening and listened to shows on the radio. A lot of folks listened to serial dramas or comedies that went on to find success on television. There were also a lot of plays that were adapted from other work or even created for radio.

Before the lights go down, the actors begin coming on stage, arriving to perform a new radio play for national broadcast in Studio A at WBFR in Manhattan. It is Christmas Eve, 1946. For the next hour and a half plus, we the audience have the experience of attending that broadcast as a studio audience member.

The first character to speak is Freddie Filmore, the first of more than a dozen characters the well known Sacramento actor Blair Leatherwood deftly juggles. Freddie is the announcer for WBFR and introduces the station, commercials and the play in which he performs several characters.

Blair Leatherwood as Freddie Filmore, Greg Alexander as Harry “Jazzbo” Heywood

Greg Alexander, well known at B Street Theatre for his quick change character rolls, plays Harry “Jazzbo” Heywood, a radio theatre character actor. Heywood plays 16 roles in the radio show.

The female character actor for the radio show is Lana Sherwood, reprised by Julie Anchor. Lana and her flirtatious ways would have been considered “bad girl” behavior at the time. So was the behavior of the bad girl of Bedford Falls, Violet Bick, one of the dozen other characters that Anchor as Lana takes on.

Kelley Ogden as Sally Applewhite, Julie Anchor as Lana Sherwood

The female star of the radio production, partially due to having only two roles in the show, is Sally Applewhite, who plays Mary Hatch Bailey as an adult and as a child. Kelley Ogden’s performance of Sally embodies much of the qualities of Mary Bailey, quiet determination with no fear of doing what she needs to do to keep things right.

Kelley Ogden as Sally Applewhite

The male star is Jake Laurents, ladies man, so sure of himself, and for good reason. Besides being good-looking, he is fabulously talented and does an amazing performance as George Bailey, the man who learns what his little town of Bedford Falls would have been like if he had not existed.

Jonathan Rhys Williams as Jake Laurents

All the performers in “It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play” are fun to watch and do a great job being both the actor character and playing the numerous characters the actor portrays. Jonathan Rhys Williams as Jake Laurents and Jake Laurents as George Bailey is really especially fun to watch.

Julie Anchor, Jonathan Rhys Williams

“It’s A Wonderful Life” has remained popular for 65 years and the role of George Bailey is one of the most defining roles in Jimmy Stewart’s long and distinguished film carer thus there is a strong public image of George Bailey looking and especially sounding like a young Jimmy Stewart.  Williams captures this essence of George Bailey in his performance of Jake Laurents performing the role beautifully.  

Kelley Ogden, Jonathan Rhys Williams

 “It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play” would be a pleasant evening’s entertainment if it was only the nostalgia and fun of seeing a play about how live radio plays were performed.   The great bonus here is the fact that play being performed is  “It’s A Wonderful Life."  Seeing this particular play and its message that continues to resonate all these decades is what makes “It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play” a wonderful holiday entertainment.  

“It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play” Capital Stage On J Street
Thursday, Friday 3:00 pm and Saturday 11:00 am
More information and tickets

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