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Tuesday, December 19, 2017

STNJ no-script ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ a Joyful Surprise

wonderful-life-

Due to family holiday activity we were unable to review the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey’s holiday treat “It’s A Wonderful Life.” Patrick Maley, the theatre reviewer for the Star-Ledger/NJ.com/NJ Advance, however did review the production and gave it a fine positive review. This production is very different from the standard script-in-hand presentations as Patrick states here:

“Set in a 1940s radio station on Christmas Eve, the show -- adapted by Joe Landry from the screenplay for the 1946 Jimmy Stewart film -- is an extended play-within-a-play. A cast of nine has gathered to perform "It's a Wonderful Life" for a live radio audience. We've got a host (Leavell Javon Johnson) in charge of emceeing the proceedings; a sound effects guy (Warren Pace) in charge of summoning all the stomping feet, slamming doors, breaking glass, and rustling papers; and a cast of actors taking on a variety of roles to fill out more than twenty-five characters.

The framework of the radio production adds a fresh layer of fun to the familiar story, taking us behind the scenes while simultaneously performing the story.

Under astute the direction of Doug West, however, the story of long-suffering good guy George Bailey never gets lost in the folds of the radio station. Often theaters do this show (which was first mounted in Stamford, Connecticut in 1996) with performers holding scripts as radio actors likely would, but West's wise decision to eschew that device allows George and his Bedford Falls associates to come to more immediate life in the theater. Of course, a couple of commercial breaks with jaunty jingles for hair cream and soap, never let us forget the production's unique conceit. But the heart of the matter is the classic story which remains center stage.

READ THE FULL REVIEW

Photo: Elizabeth Colwell stars as Violet Bick and John Keabler stars as George Bailey in "It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play" at the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey (Photo by Jerry Dalia)

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