Regional Reviews: Philadelphia
Also see Rebecca's review of Broken Stones
It's Christmas Eve at a 1940s radio station and we are the studio audience for a live coast-to-coast broadcast. It's A Wonderful Life is the story of George Bailey, a would-be explorer and architect who gives up his dreams to run the family business. The Bailey savings and loan may not look like much, but it is the only way some local folks can afford to buy their piece of the American dream. It's also a thorn in the side of greedy old man Potter, who owns pretty much everything else in town. When an unfortunate error makes George think everyone would be better off without him, an angel from heaven comes down to show him the truth.
Damon Bonetti is charismatic and earnest as Jake Laurents, the voice of George Bailey. Tabitha Allen (Sally Applewhite) gets just the right mix of of confidence and sweetness in her voicing of George's love interest Mary. Josh Totora plays jovial radio host Freddie Filmore and is the music and vocal director for It's A Wonderful Life. Jessica Johnson (Lana Sherwood) exudes warmth, while Michael P. Toner (Harry 'Jazzbo' Heywood) displays great comic timing. The oh so inviting set is designed by Scott Groh with lighting design by Shon Causer. The festively lush 1940s costumes are designed by Rebecca Dwight.
There are some advantages to the radio play format. The pace is pleasantly brisk. It is fun to see the small group of actors voice so many different characters and play so many different instruments. Watching the ensemble use all manner of contraptions to create the sound effects is entertaining, too.
It's A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play runs through December 17th, 2017, at the Walnut Street Theatre, Independence Studio on 3, 825 Walnut St., Philadelphia. Tickets are available at 215-574-3550 or 800-982-2787. Tickets are also available at walnutstreettheatre.org or Ticketmaster.com.