Actors present 'Wonderful Life' as radio show

Deb Edwards/Commercial-NewsRed Mask Players rehearse for their performance in "It's A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play." From left to right are Joel Shoemaker, portraying George Bailey; Theresa Tyner, portraying Mary Bailey; Jim Rogers, portraying Clarence the Angel and others; Lisa Lovelace, portraying Violet Bick and others; Ron McDaniel, portaying Mr. Potter and others; and Ed Sant, portraying Foley Artist, announcer and others.

DANVILLE — Almost everyone has seen the holiday movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” on television. But how many have experienced it as a radio show?

Audiences will get that unique chance tonight, Friday and this weekend when Red Mask Players present the classic as a live radio program.

Shows start at 7:30 p.m. tonight, Friday and Saturday, and the Sunday matinee is at 2 p.m. in Kathryn Randolph Theater, 601 N. Vermilion St.

This is the group’s holiday fundraiser, and not included in season memberships. The show is suitable for all ages.

The play, based on the 1946 movie, tells the story of idealistic George Bailey as he considers ending his life one fateful Christmas Eve. An angel shows him what life would have been like if he had never existed.

“It’s such a well-loved classic that people watch year after year,” director Donna Sant said. “It’s true to the script. All the favorite characters are there.”

The biggest difference, of course, is that “It’s a Wonderful Life” is presented as a live radio show in the 1940s. Back in the day, radio shows were performed in front of a live audience, Sant said.

Most of the seven characters have multiple roles, and it’s amusing to watch and hear them change their voices.

“The comedy comes from each actor changing character, just by his voice,” she said.

Lisa Lovelace, who plays Violet and about nine other characters, agreed, saying, “Sometimes we’re having conversations with ourselves (as different characters).”

She added, “As an actor, it’s fun. You have to make sure your voices are distinct.”

Getting all of the sound effects correct was the most challenging part, Sant said.

Ed Sant has done a great job of finding the items that sound like breaking glass, car horns, police sirens and others, she said. The sound effects almost become a character.

For the actors, the best part is that they didn’t have to memorize any lines. They’ll be standing at the microphone and reading the script.

Joel Shoemaker as George Bailey and Theresa Tyner as Mary Bailey are the only ones who don’t have multiple roles. The other cast members are Ron McDaniel, Jim Rogers and Natalie Mills-Hester, who’s also the accompanist.

Lovelace said she gets to be the voice of Zuzu, the little girl who says at the end, “Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings.”

She compared the show to listening to “A Prairie Home Companion,” and doing the play makes the actors appreciate live radio from the past.

“It’s just a lot of fun,” she said. “I hope it’s great fun for the audience.”

Sant added that the play has a great set and music. The show is produced/stage-managed by Sue Harden.

Lovelace, who moved to Danville from a small town near Springfield, said she’s impressed with all of the culture and entertainment that Danville has to offer.

“If you pay attention, there’s quite a lot going on around this town,” she said.

FYI

Tickets for “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play” are $10 for everyone. No reservations are being taken and seating is festival-style.

The group’s website is www.redmaskplayers.com.