Review | ‘It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play’

Ensemble Theatre Company Scores with Heartwarming Holiday Hit

Ensemble Theatre Company "It's A Wonderful Life" | Credit: David Bazemore Photo

Give yourself a present for the holidays and see this play. Like a jazz quintet adapting a standard from the great American songbook (e.g., the Miles Davis group, “My Funny Valentine”) and mining it for all the heart and heft and feels it’s worth, this stage version of the classic 1946 Frank Capra film takes a chart full of changes — the script of Capra’s movie — and plays it loud and live, with fresh ears.

Matthew Floyd Miller lends a kinetic charge to the role of George Bailey by way of playing Jake Laurents, the radio actor and lead. Radio actress Sally Applewhite (Hannah Tamminen) provides a surefooted and seductive Mary White to capture George’s romantic imagination. As Lana Sherwood, Teri Bibb ranges widely, from the dark and tempting Violet to Zuzu, the Bailey’s youngest child. It’s the radio gimmick of having a small handful of individual actors play so many multiple roles that gives It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play so much sizzle. Peter Van Norden is on fire as Freddie Filmore, the announcer, and as Mr. Potter, Bill Bailey, and many others. Louis Lotorto flies through the rapid transitions he must undergo in order to voice Harry Bailey, Mr. Martini, and several others as the radio actor Harry “Jazzbo” Heywood. It’s Lotorto’s final turn as the angel Clarence that puts the finishing touch on this fabulous Christmas creation.


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