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INDIANA: 'Wonderful Life' radio play comes to life on stage

by BY RACHEL FLOYD, Gazette Student News Reporter on November 15, 2013 11:00 AM

Indiana Area Senior High School will present “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play,” at 8 p.m. today and Saturday. Inspired by the Frank Capra classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” this performance adapts the storyline to a radio play, adding a new layer to the beloved film starring Indiana’s hometown hero, Jimmy Stewart.

“It’s a Wonderful Life” is set in a time where televisions were not in the living room of every home, so many people tuned into the radio for entertainment. Radio shows were very popular during this time.

Actors would voice multiple characters. There were sound effects, live music and even a narrator to help portray the story.

Cast member Carlee Benhart adds, “It’s a radio-style play based in the 1940s. Everything on set is period, including the sound effects. It’s funny and cute and family-friendly.”

The atmosphere of “It’s a Wonderful Life” lends itself to this kind of format with the narration given by the angels, Joseph and Clarence.

Joe Landry adapted the film to capture the time period and the famed story of “It’s a Wonderful Life” by making it a radio play.

The set is a cutaway of a radio station, WBFR, and the audience sees the cast playing actors who are portraying characters from the movie.

When asked about the show, Paul Kane, who stars in the show as Jake Laurentis and doubles as George Bailey, said, “I am simply thrilled about the show. George Bailey is such a classic character, and I’m honored to pay homage to that classic American dreamer. I know the audience will enjoy the play and all the new layers that the radio show format provides. It’s easy to forget that the radio studio is part of a play and not an actual broadcast.”

This is certainly a family-friendly show and audience participation is encouraged. To quote the radio show’s announcer, Freddie Filmore, “Don’t be shy, feel free to laugh, swoon, or cry just as loud as the spirit moves you.”

The cast interacts directly with the audience before the show and during the intermission.

Cast member Tori Meyer explains that “the show is done with the audience in mind; reactions from the crowd are interwoven into the play and welcomed.”

The small cast lends itself to a great chemistry on stage.

Cast member Thomas Nakrosis added, “It’s a fantastic cast, and the new director, Leah Lyons, has done an excellent job leading us.”

The show is expected to have an outstanding turnout this weekend.

PHOTO:  The cast of “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Radio Play” will perform the show at 8 p.m. today and Saturday in the auditorium of Indiana Area Senior High School.  (Courtney Kestenbaum/Indiana Area Senior High School)

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