Adapted by Joe Landry, Directed by Sean Murray, Music Direction by Amy Dalton. Dec 5th through Dec 31st, 2009
(OLD TOWN)- It’s a Wonderful Life opened at the Cygnet Theatre in Old Town Saturday night, to a packed audience that couldn’t help but laugh out loud. It’s one of those stories that takes you back to the days of radio- where a good imagination helps you follow the narrative.
It’s a tale with a happy ending which reminds us that through hard economic times, if we stick by and help one another- life isn’t so bad.
Enter guardian angel (Tim West) sent to Earth to help George Bailey (Tom Andrew) at his darkest hour. The plot follows a series of flashbacks of George’s life, highlighting various life lessons that ultimately shape his character and his reason to live. As we settle our thoughts and embrace the characters, the real story grabs us in Act 2 as we become increasingly emotionally engaged with George, watching him stand on a bridge contemplating his life. Will he jump?
All through the play, narrator Jonathan Dunn-Rankin (aka “Mr. Potter”) and the guardian angel keep the radio play moving steadily from start to finish. It’s a cast of nine performing 40 roles, so you’ll need to pay close attention and let the voices reach your imagination.
The play starts on the fabulous set of "Studio A at WCYG Manhattan, NY” on Christmas Even in 1947. Because this is a radio play, the audience is asked to applaud when the “Applaud” signs are lit and laugh when appropriate since this is “live radio.”
The energetic and vibrant cast is more than just theatrically impressive; they’re also able to capture audience attention with perfectly exaggerated facial expressions, emotional depth, and clear diction.
I was especially impressed by the performance of David McBean (“Harry Bailey”) with his stage presence and “perma-smile.” The ladies of the play - Veronica Murphy (“Mr’s Bailey”), Melissa Fernandes (“Violet Bick”), and Amanda Sitton (“Mary Hatch”) - were each able to transform from one character to the next while sustaining the spirit of the play (there were times when I closed my eyes to imagine it in my head). The sound effects (courtesy of Scott Paulson) were just on target.
Above all, The Cygnet Theatre is a space which lends itself to an intimate gathering, where audience members and actors are able to become intimately engaged with one another. Mingling with the cast before the show gives the audience the opportunity to get to know the characters and like them before the performance even begins.
It’s a Wonderful Life is a definite must-see this holiday season.