It's A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play

December 1-10, 2017
Performances in Davenport, Reardan, Wilbur, and Odessa

Director: Jerry Sciarrio
Stage Manager: Jessica Righthouse-Smith
Scenic Designer: Leslie Schweiger
Costume Designer: Jennifer Doyle
Lighting Designer: Justin Schmidt
Props: Karen Robertson

Justin Bradford
Jonathan Broadway
Patra Canfield
Knute Hernas
Shirley Johnson
Lee Jorgensen
Eric Scharff

“It’s a Wonderful Life" comes alive in Community Center setting

From The Wilbur Register • December 4, 2017

For their first production of the tenth anniversary season, The Wheatland Theatre Company really impressed audiences all over Lincoln County with their performance of “It’s A Wonderful Life: A Lice Radio Play.” It was a simple, unique take on the classic Christmas tale with a small cast of six actors performing multiple voice roles and two extra “sound effects” artists (Shirley Johnson and Patra Canfield).

The effect of being in a studio audience for a radio show recording was so believable, that at times the Community Center just disappeared and you felt transformed to a living room in 1946, gathered around the radio. Hilarious commercials for ridiculous products and crafted sound effects like a tiny slamming door or tub fill of water completed the illusion.

The “feel good, heart-warmer” began with Jospeh and Clarence (played by Knute Hernas) the almost-angel, looking down from heaven on George Bailey and his life leading up to the moment that he stood on an icy bridge, considering jumping. Clarence is to be tasked with the job of saving George and answering his prayers. “Do a good job with George Bailey and we’ll see about your wings,” says Joseph (played by Justin Bradford in one of his many roles).

So in stops and starts of flashback-type storytelling, the audience sees a bright-eyed, idealistic George Bailey (played by Jack Broadway) as he strives to save money and escape the “shabby little office” of his family business, Bailey bros. Building and Loan Co. Then how life takes unexpected turns and George ends up staying in Bedford Falls while his brother, Harry, leaves and becomes a war hero.

The story shows George always striving to support the underdogs and get out from under the financial thumb of Mr. Potter (played by Lee Jorgensen). He falls in love and marries his childhood friend Mary (okayed by Erika Scharff), and they move into the old house that they once threw rocks at, raising a family and making a happy life.

The crisis that brings George to his knees and makes him feel like the struggle was all for nothing, comes about at Christmas time, when his Uncle Billy loses $8000 in deposits, and their family business is at risk of bankruptcy and prosecution as well as losing the trust of their friends and neighbors.

George reaches rock bottom and declares that it would be better if he’d never been born. Clarence sees this as an opportunity to show George how much of a difference he has made in many lives—and hopefully earn his wings in the process. “One man leaves quite a mark,” Clarence says to George, “When he isn’t around, he leaves a pretty big hole.”

Of course, as everyone know with this familiar story, George realizes that he is valuable to his friends and family and declares, “I want to live again, Clarence!”

When he returns home to his family, Mary has gotten everyone they ever helped to pitch in and repay George’s generosity, including their longtime friend, Violet (played by Erin Henry). They raise much more than the missing $8,000 and save the Bailey Bros. Building and Loan Co., ensuring that Clarence Earns his wings. George learns the valuable life lesson that “no man is a failure who has friends.”

“It’s A Wonderful Life” is the first of several productions that the Wheatland Theatre Co. is working on this year. They performed to sold-out audiences in Davenport, Reardan, Wilbur and Odessa. Look them up on Facebook to find ways to help this non-profit art group with donations of money or times. Their page will also provide information about their next performances.