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A CurtainUp Review
It's a Wonderful Life: The Live Radio Play

Dear George, remember, no man is a failure who has friends.—¬†Clarence
Ian Holcomb takes the mic (photo: Carol Rosegg)
Surely, Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without the family gathering around the television set to watch the 1946 Frank Capra film, It's a Wonderful Life. But this year there's another treat awaiting the film's admirers, the Irish Repertory's production of It's a Wonderful Life: The 1946 Radio Play, adapted by Anthony Palermo and directed by Charlotte Moore.

Set designer James Morgan has transformed the Irish Repertory's W. Scott McLucas Studio Stage into a 1946 radio studio, complete with "On Air" and "Applause" signs, microphones and a functioning clock on the wall.

As Christmas carols are piped into the studio, actors, dressed in period clothing, walk in through the theater entrance and onto the stage. They engage in a bit of small talk while waiting for the actress who is habitually late. At last, the show begins.

Palermo's adaptation has all the characters and events we love so well. George Bailey (Aaron Gaines) is as selfless as ever, saving his younger brother, Harry (Ian Holcomb), from drowning in the frozen pond and the pharmacist, Mr. Gower (Dewey Caddell), from poisoning a child. The fumbling, well-meaning angel, Clarence (Caddell), is still trying to earn his wings. George's ruthless competitor, Henry Potter (Caddell) again gives us the creeps. And George's loving wife, Mary, makes us smile.

It also has a few commercial interruptions for products like cigarettes, recommended by doctors for their healthy and relaxing qualities. And there are lots of real-life sounds created by the innovative sound effects man.

For those who have seen the film many, many times, it may be hard to imagine how the story works without the river, the bridge, and all those friends and neighbors delivering their savings to Jimmy Stuart. In fact it may be hard to imaging the story without Jimmy Stuart. But happily these actors are really wonderful and Moore handles the material so expertly our imaginations can easily fill in the blanks.

Gaines has all the necessary sincerity and innocence that makes George so lovable. And Caddell is a great, goofy Clarence. What's more, most of the actors play several parts, and do so with such expertise that each character is clearly defined.

If you're finding these dim days of December are a little dimmer than usual, give your heart cheer and your soul comfort with the pure goodness of a show that celebrates people who love, comfort and care for each other.

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It's a Wonderful Life: The Live Radio Play
Adapted by Anthony Palermo
Directed by Charlotte Moore
Cast: Haley Bond, Dewey Caddell, Orlagh Cassidy, Rory Duffy, Aaron Gaines, Ian Holcomb
Set Design: James Morgan
Costume Design: Barbara Bell
Lighting Design: Brian Nason
Live Sound Design: Zach Williamson
Production Stage Manager: April Ann Kline
Running Time: 70 minutes, no intermission
Irish Repertory Theatre, 132 West 22 Street,
From 11/29/2017; opening 12/3/217; closing12/31/2017
Wednesday 3pm & 8pm, Thursday 7pm, Friday 8pm, Saturday 3pm & 8pm, Sunday 3pm, No performance Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, added show Dec. 26 at 7pm
Tickets: General Admission $50
Reviewed by Paulanne Simmons Nov. 30, 2017

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