The Bricolage Production Company opened its premier of It’s a Wonderful Life, part of the Midnight Radio series, to a sold out house on Thursday evening. Most people are familiar with the story of George Bailey and his guardian angel, second class; before the show, the audience members could be heard talking about their love for the movie, Jimmy Stewart and the memories built around watching the movie with family and friends over the years. At one point I overheard a woman telling her companion that she had actually never seen the film. I, being the fan that I am, immediately saw red and fought back the urge to snatch her chair from under her and make her stand in the corner for the duration of the show. My anger then turned to fear; this was going to be her first exposure to this story! Would her view of this timeless icon be forever tainted if the performance was not what it should be or the integrity of the story was not upheld? Fortunately, my anxiety was quickly subdued.
This is a story full of colorful characters right down to the taxi driver and there are only five people behind microphones to play the parts. The entire cast does a great job giving each of character their own distinct flavor. I really enjoyed Wali Jamal transitioning from the crotchety Potter character to the angel Joseph, who sounds like your typical waistcoat-wearing Englishman that spends his weekends judging dog shows. Brett Goodnack plays George Baily and really hits the nail on the head. He was able to portray the excitable, frustrated young man well without overdoing the effort to imitate Jimmy Stewart.
Joe Landry (Writer) and Alex Tobey (Director) do well to rearrange and bend the story ever so slightly to fit the radio format. Most of what is removed are scenes that are highly visual in nature, such as the luggage store or at the dance, and were usually stitched up with narration or having characters ask a leading question. There are a few things I did miss, such as Lillian Randolph’s character Annie (one of her lines was saved) and of course the scene of George and Mary’s first kiss.
With the radio effects that are used, the cast is able to still paint a visual picture of the scene; the wind, breaking windows, doors and voices in the distance, are just some of the effects continually created by the cast in order for your imagination to have enough material to work with in creating the scene. Of all the strange things that caught my attention during this show, it was the sound of crowded rooms that I was impressed with. I have been to shows where this sound is attempted (both on stage and in this format) and it just sounds like people making noise into the microphone. This cast did well in actually make it sound like conversations were happening in the background without stealing too much attention. I must also compliment Elena Alexandratos on her baby noises, the audience loved it.
The show as a whole was very well done. The live music is perfect, the acting is great and the story has the same effect as it always does. The attention to detail in both capturing the story and the delivery of the lines and sounds definitely made this show what it was. I left the theater knowing that this show not only did the story justice but that woman at the beginning of the show probably fell in love with it and can get around to the movie in her own time.
Performance Date: December 4, 2014