A postcard review of Lunchbox Theatre’s It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play

Lunchbox Theatre reprises it’s popular performance of It’s  a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play, complete with original cast. Caroline Russell-King offers up her take on this holiday production.

Show: It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play.

Playwright/s: Original screenplay by Frances Goodrich, Albert Hackett, Frank Capra, Jo Swearling and Philip Van Doren Stern, adapted by Joe Landry.

Production Company/Theatre space: Lunchbox Theatre.

Length: 1 Act (60 mins., no intermission).

Genre/s: A “live” radio play of the fantasy movie.

Premise: Five actors and one Foley master create the entire Xmas classic movie about a man who gets a second chance at life realizing how lucky he is, with the help of his guardian angel.

Why this play? Why now?: The show was a success for the theatre two years ago and had really great WOM (Word of Mouth).

Curiosities: I wondered if “the young’uns” in the audience would get as much out of it as those who of us who connect to the original movie, the iconic performances, and warm fuzzy reminiscences of radio plays.

Notable lines: Besides all of the iconic lines we associate with this piece, my favourite were, “Mother’s on the extension,” and “Mary, you’re on the nest?!”

Notable writing: Republic Pictures, the original copyright owner and producer of Wonderful Life, neglected to renew the 1946 copyright in 1974. So, the film entered the public domain allowing Landry to make hay.

Notable performances: A tight and talented ensemble reprise their award-winning performances, seamlessly folding in new cast member Neil Minor.

Notable design/Production: Deitra Kalyn, Calgary’s award-winning costume designer, balances sparkle and period, nostalgia with perfect restraint.

Notable direction: While across the corridor (at Vertigo) Craig Hall has the actors within the show magnificently OTT (Over The Top) in this play (with the somewhat similar conceit) the outcome is subtle and heartfelt.

One reason to see this show: If it can mist up the eyes of this cynical atheist, it’s a Christmas miracle. (Somewhere off in the distance a bell rings.)

(Photo: Kevin Rothery and Devon Dubnyk in It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play, 2018/2019 Season at Lunchbox Theatre. Photo credit: Benjamin Laird)

It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play runs until Dec. 22 at Lunchbox Theatre.

Caroline Russell-King is a playwright, dramaturg, and instructor. She is a member of The Playwrights Guild of Canada, the Dramatist Guild of America and the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. You can find her work here