Ignition Theatre has added some Christmas cheer with its novel approach to a holiday film classic.
The Red Deer theatre company debuted It’s a Wonderful Life: The Live Radio Drama at The Matchbox on Thursday night, just two weeks before millions of TV viewers will watch the beloved 1946 film starring Jimmy Stewart.
Under the direction of Albertus Koett, the dozen actors re-enacted this movie as a 1940’s live radio drama. And this two-hour stage adaptation by Tony Palmero worked well.
A few minutes before the actual performance begins, the audience has a real sense they’re in the middle of a radio set.
The actors are gabbing amongst each other, having drinks of water, and shortly after, the live sound engineer tells them there’s only a few minutes left to air time.
The actors take their positions at several mikes positioned on the stage. A red light turns on, indicating they are now on the air. The announcer comes on to give a run-down of the main characters and who is playing them.
The story revolves around a small-town boy named George Bailey who grows up dreaming of adventure and travel, but ends up some financial misfortune and wants to end his life on Christmas Eve.
A Guardian angel named Clarence helps to bring clarity to George by showing what life would be like if he hadn’t been born.
What makes this version unique is that the actors are moving very little on stage. They largely stay put around their mikes.
Rather than relying on body movement to entertain the audience, the actors used their voices, facial expressions and occasionally their hands in order to convey the tale of a man down on his luck.
Ryan Mattila was very convincing in the lead role of George Bailey. He gave a solid range of emotions from frustration to despair.
When he declares to God and Clarence how much he wants to live again, there was such raw emotion coming from him, it was hard not to get teary-eyed.
Sabrina Notte also gave a solid performance as Bailey’s sweet wife Mary.
Other noteworthy performances included Michael Sutherland, playing Uncle Billy and several other characters, and Paul Boultbee as the grouchy slumlord, Mr. Potter.
All in all, the entire cast was strong throughout.
Dustin Clark, acting as the radio station’s live sound engineer, provided some comedy relief to the show when he sang a few jingles of actual Red Deer sponsors. And the ambience of the 1940s was conveyed well through the stage set, done by Kalon McClarty, and the clothing design created by Stephanie Ridge and Caitlyn Thoreson.
It’s a Wonderful Life: The Live Radio Drama would make a great early Christmas present .
It runs until Dec. 19 at The Matchbox. Tickets are $22 ($18 for students and seniors).