5 actors, dozens of characters in 'Wonderful Life' radio play
Jeannie Rogers loves the Christmas holidays and she loves to direct, so directing the New Century Players' production of "It's a Wonderful Life" seemed like an opportunity that was heaven sent.
Add in that she directed it several years ago when she lived in Hawaii where "fake snow at Christmas is magical," and it could be said she has a miracle on her hands.
"I am thrilled to be able to direct it again. I just loved the movie, 'It's a Wonderful Life,' and I feel like it's a great 'feel good' reminder to us all," Rogers said.
The plot revolves around the idealistic George Bailey who considers ending his life one fateful Christmas Eve. But with the help of all the lives he has touched and Clarence the Angel, he finds his way home.
The NCP production brings the "beloved American holiday movie classic to captivating life, as a live 1940s 'behind-the-scenes' radio broadcast," Rogers said.
Unlike the movie, this version uses an ensemble of five actors who play a few dozen characters, she noted. An additional performer has the role of the "foley," who makes all the sound effects.
"It's hard to believe that with only five actors, they can relive this movie to a T. It's hilarious at times, but full of the same beautiful emotion that the original Hollywood move has," Rogers said.
Danny Caputo will play Freddie Filmore. He will be reading the role of the announcer, Gower, Potter, Joseph, Peter Bailey and seven more roles. This play provides him with the opportunity to portray many different characters, each with a unique voice and physical mannerism, he said.
There are even a couple of scenes where he is portraying different characters talking to each other.
As for how a radio play works, Caputo noted that "many programs broadcast during the heyday of radio had a live studio audience, and their reactions were part of the broadcast.
"Even though they were reading from a script, the actors really performed for the audience, including live special effects, to try and get the proper reactions, so the audience experiences a lot more than simply watching someone read."
Dennis Fitzpatrick will be playing the role of Jake Laurents. He will be reading the role of George Bailey, which in the film was played by Jimmy Stewart. He also reads the role of young George.
He noted that that the live piano accompaniment is a "vibrant presence."
As for the timeless lesson of the piece, he added that it answers the question, "if you were never born who would you be?"
As the foley, Nikki Flinn said all her communication is through sound.
"I love the idea of playing a professional foley artist and finding the special timing and rhythm as a sort of dance that works in tandem with the performers and story.
"I especially enjoy creating sounds for the window breaking, many varied footsteps, and ice, water and snow sounds."
Flinn added, "I love the absolute warmth of Christmas spirit [the play] evokes, and the feel of what it might have been like to actually see radio actors perform in the 1940s."
Will Futterman will play Harry "Jazbo" Heywood. He also will be reading the role of Bert, Clarence Oddbody, Sam Wainwright, Martini and many more.
His favorite scene is when George saves Clarence. He said he always gets chills when George and Clarence meet for the first time.
As for the holiday aspect of the play, Futterman said it is "a great holiday play that presents a familiar story in a new way."
Sara McNaughton will play Sally Applewhite. She also will read the role of Mary Hatch, the role in the film played by Donna Reed, and young Mary.
"My character, Mary, and George have a very dramatic moment right at the end of the first act [when] he confesses his love to me. Right after those intense lines we go into a hilarious 1940s-style radio commercial, the contrast of those two moments is my favorite scene in the show," she said.
"Fans of the movie and newcomers to the story will have a great time, while the Christmas spirit will be in full force."
Amber Schein will play Lana Sherwood. She also will be reading the roles of Rose Bailey, Violet, Mrs. Hatch, ZuZu, Sadie Vance and more.
"I love the energy we build off of each other as cast members, and Nikki Flynn on foley is a real treat every rehearsal," she said.
Audiences will like the radio play's "clever use of props and entertaining voices. It has a way of taking you back in time to a love story that you want to witness over and over again," Rogers said.
"Despite the tension and pain and anger that is happening in our world right now, we need to take a minute and be thankful for every day we have because it truly is a wonderful life."
Listen to the radio
What: New Century Players present "It's a Wonderful Life: A Radio Play," by Joe Landry
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays, Dec. 8-24
Where: Rose Villa Performing Arts Center, 13505 S.E. River Road, Oak Grove
Cost: Tickets are available at the door and online at NewCenturyPlayers.org or call 503-367-2620. Adults $20; seniors $15; students $10.
Upcoming: NCP will present "Infinite Black Suitcase" Jan. 26-28; "Legally Blonde - The Musical" Feb. 16-25; "Enchanted April" April 13-15; and "The Cemetery Club" May 4-20.