WARWICK, RI – After a successful 2019 run, Gamm Theatre brings back “It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play,” with many cast and crew returning for the production, first-rate in every way.
Jimmy Stewart played everyman George Bailey in the 1946 film “It’s a Wonderful Life”, which has become a beloved holiday favorite. What makes this version of the story special is the ability of the actors to recreate the world of Bedford Falls in the tiny WGAM radio studio. Set designer Michael McGarty has done a spectacular job here, with lots of nice touches.
Gamm’s Artistic Director Tony Estrella (“A Lie Agreed Upon”) once again delivers a beautifully nuanced performance as George, a kind-hearted mensch who sacrifices his dreams to help others, including his brother Harry (Jeff Church).
George is fair to everyone but faces mounting financial problems with his Building and Loan business. Fred Sullivan (“A Lie Agreed Upon”) is George’s nemesis Henry Potter, a selfish and arrogant man who cares little about the problems of working class men and women. Money is all that matters to him.
When George’s problems become too much to bear, he contemplates suicide and has a fateful meeting with the angel Clarence, who shows him what life would be like had he never been born.
Sullivan is wonderfully versatile, exhibiting a menacing growl as Potter and a whimsical lilt as Clarence, who is desperately seeking his wings.
Lynsey Ford is solid as Mary, George’s fiancée and later, his wife. Richard Noble (“Arcadia”) and Helena Tafuri (“Assassins”) are also superb as the various denizens of Bedford Falls.
Emily Turtle capably plays the show announcer as well as George’s young daughter Zuzu, while DJ Potter makes an invaluable contribution as the sound effects technician, providing a variety of sounds including cracking ice and bell chimes.
There are some clever gags in the show, including an amusing commercial for a local credit union. Jessie Darrell Jarbadan’s 1940s era costumes and Noah Beauregard’s lighting are also excellent.
The actors warm up the audience with sing-alongs of holiday favorites including “Jingle Bells” and “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”
There are also readings of special messages from audience members. It’s a terrific way to spend a few hours on a cold winter night.
“It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play” celebrates compassion, generosity, and imparts a valuable message. No matter how tough life gets, you have to keep fighting for what you believe in.
It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play runs through December 24. The Gamm Theatre, 1245 Jefferson Blvd., Warwick, RI. For tickets: call 401-723-4266 or gammtheatre.org. Tickets are $49-$69. Discounts for seniors, students, groups and more. Details at gammtheatre.org/discounts. Tickets: 401-723-4266 or gammtheatre.org.
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