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Radio comes to ‘Life’ with holiday classic

Photos courtesy Doug Chapin
Craig Dolezel,  (George Bailey) and Mark Brown (Clarence) are two of the actors in a talented ensemble that bring to life Frank Capra’s classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play,” opening at the Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts at 7 p.m Friday, Nov. 30.

By R. Eli Townsend

Special to The PREVIEW

Thingamajig Theatre Company continues its 2012-13 Season with a family friendly production of “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play,” which runs during the holiday season from Nov. 30 to Dec. 23.

Tim Moore directs Joe Landry’s “outstanding” and “inspiring” (Chicago Tribune) live radio play adaptation of Frank Capra’s film “It’s a Wonderful Life.” A gala celebration, opening night Friday, Nov. 30 featuring cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and live musicians kicks off the run.

“It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play” transposes the cinematic classic to the theater by staging the story as if it was a live radio broadcast in front of a studio audience. Five actors perform the voices of dozens of characters while creating foley sound effects. As in the movie, everyman George Bailey must learn that “no man is a failure who has friends”, when he must face off against local robber baron and all-around curmudgeon Henry F. Potter. It’s a surefire reminder of what this season is all about.

Photos courtesy Doug Chapin
Craig Dolezel, (George Bailey) and Mark Brown (Clarence) are two of the actors in a talented ensemble that bring to life Frank Capra’s classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play,” opening at the Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts at 7 p.m Friday, Nov. 30.

“It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play” premiered in 1996 at Stamford Center for the Arts in Stamford, Conn., and has since been produced around the country to critical acclaim. Thingamajig’s production features four local performers and returning New York actor Craig Dolezel in the role of Jake Laurents/George Bailey. The five actors take the stage following some mingling with the audience and setting their various props on stage — but quickly fade away, revealing the talented and popular 1940s radio actors who will assume their “Wonderful Life” counterparts.

There’s the rich-toned George (Dolezel), the vocal embodiment of the “typical American dreamer;” the coy and sophisticated sounding — later warm and loving —  Mary (Laura Moore); the gentle-voiced guardian angel Clarence (Mark Brown); a sultry siren Violet Bick (Bonnie Hite) and the voice that practically oozes wealth, power and intimidation, emanating from the great Henry Potter (Bob Hite).

Although the actors rely solely on their voices, it isn’t a stretch to suddenly find yourself in the midst of the story, laughing and crying and cheering on George, booing the overbearing Potter and worrying along with Mary.

The story of “It’s A Wonderful Life” centers around George Bailey, a good-hearted everyman who on Christmas Eve looks back over his life and wonders whether it was all worth it — missing out on college to take care of the family business, missing his honeymoon to take care of the family business, not being able to enlist in the war because of an ear injury, and then taking care of the family business. It is up to an apprentice guardian angel, Clarence Oddbody, to persuade George that his life really is, in fact, wonderful.

“It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play” is rated G and appropriate for audiences of all ages. Show times and dates are Nov. 30-Dec. 23, Fridays and Saturdays at 7 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets are on sale now by visiting www.pagosacenter.org or calling 731-SHOW.

This story was posted on November 29, 2012.