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‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ at RLT is a heartwarming radio drama on stage (photos)

Date:

Photos by Bob Conrad

Reno Little Theater’s production of “It’s a Wonderful Life: Live Radio Play” is the classic Christmas tale that generations have known and loved, and it promises a heartwarming evening with the family. 

The story of George Bailey is told in a new format: a play guising as a live radio broadcast set in the 1940s. The stage looks like the interior of a radio show, with Marissa Seaman playing the foley artist hanging out in the background and creating live sound effects to accompany the story. The rest of the cast cycles among three microphones as they re-enact the classic Christmas movie to their “radio” audience. 

The nature of this production creates an extra layer between the audience and the story with the live radio show backdrop. Lovers of the theater will be intrigued to see how this format translates on the stage, but beyond the initial curiosity, there isn’t much to be offered here. 

My eyes kept wandering to the actors’ background performances as I hoped to spot some sort of secondary plot, like some intricate workplace drama or romance between these radio employees. Instead, their time spent away from the mics was used shuffling papers and refilling empty mugs.

Despite the confusing format – during a dress rehearsal and media preview performance – the actors did a wonderful job staying in character for the entire performance, even walking around the stage before the show and during intermission, including the audience as part of their performance. 

Besides acting as an employee of the radio broadcasting company, they also had to juggle playing multiple characters in the story of “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Adam Semas and Melody Ricketts were the exceptions, with their onstage personas only reading for George Bailey and Mary Hatch Bailey, respectively. 

The other cast members played upwards of 20 characters in the realm of the story. Although some characters would have distinct accents or would wear a particular hat, at other times, it took some effort to tell who was meant to be speaking. There were also a few wrinkles in the performance, where a piece of dialogue would be said in the incorrect accent, or an actor would seem to need to remember their line was next, and there would be an awkward silence on stage. 

The actors’ talents on the stage were undeniable; however, some hiccups at the preview night will likely be eliminated for scheduled performances. A radio show is a quirky experiment for the stage, one that should maybe only have a weekend or two dedicated to it rather than being a season headliner. 

Still, if you’re seeking a peaceful and festive evening with the family, this show will leave you with the desire to roast chestnuts and sip on eggnog. 

Details

Evening Show Dates: 11/10, 11/11*, 11/16, 11/17, 11/18, 11/25, 11/30, 12/1, 12/2, 12/8, 12/9, 12/14, 12/15, 12/16 @ 7:30 PM

Matinee Show Dates: 11/12, 11/19**, 11/26, 12/3, 12/10, 12/17 @ 2:00 PM

Tickets

  • General Admission $28
  • Senior $23
  • Student/Military $15
  • *Denotes PAY-WHAT-YOU-WISH performance
  • **Denotes talk-back performance 

Cast

  • Adam Semas as Jake Laurents
  • Stephen Schillo as Harry “Jazzbo” Heywood
  • Jim Sturtevant as Freddy Filmore
  • Melody Ricketts as Sally Applewhite
  • Hannah Johnson as Lana Sherwood
  • Marissa Seaman as Foley Artist
Kylie Burns
Kylie Burns
Kylie Burns has been living in Reno for over two decades. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and an MFA in Creative Writing. Her non-fiction work can also be found in Broadway Baby. When she isn't reviewing art and culture events in Reno, she's hogging the spotlight in karaoke or trying her hand at mixology.

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