Stage adaptation of classic film celebrates the spirit of the holiday

For The Madison Press

November 27, 2013

This December’s production of “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play” marks Plain City’s first holiday theatrical production on record, with theatre patrons becoming the studio audience as just eight actors perform the dozens of beloved Bedford Falls characters, all in the style of a live 1940s radio broadcast. Complete with amusing jingles and classic sound effects produced right on stage, this production has become an annual favorite in cities across America. The classic story about the power of community features local actors, both professional and amateur, and is helmed by artistic director Joshua McClymont. Performances run Dec. 12-14 in the historic auditorium of the former Plain City Elementary School.

Hailed as “magical” by The Boston Globe and “fresh and inventive” by the Chicago Sun-Times, “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play” transposes the cinematic classic (and holiday television tradition) to the theater by staging the story as if it was a live radio broadcast in front of a studio audience. As in the movie, everyman George Bailey must learn that “no man is a failure who has friends” when he faces off against local curmudgeon Henry F. Potter. It’s “a surefire reminder of what this season is all about” (Edge Magazine).

Premiering in 1996 at Stamford Center for the Arts in Stamford, Connecticut, playwright Joe Landry’s “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play” has since been produced across the country to critical acclaim. After being in the audience of an Atlanta production in 2008, director Joshua McClymont was so inspired by the performance, he vowed to someday bring the show to his wife’s hometown. He was thrilled to enlist the talent and expertise of CATCO Scenic Designer and local resident Stephanie Gerckens, who has also produced designs for BalletMet, Opera Columbus, and Chicago’s Remains Theatre, as well as her husband, TJ Gerckens, a professional lighting designer whose New York credits include work both on and off Broadway, along with productions at the Metropolitan Opera and The New York Shakespeare Festival.

“Similar to the popular radio program A Prairie Home Companion and, of course, radio plays from the early 20th century, audiences will be delighted by the on-stage sound effects and amazed at the ability of the actors to switch between so many characters,” said McClymont.

Making his Plain City stage debut with “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play,” McClymont has directed and acted in numerous productions across the country. Plain City residents Allison McClymont, James Sintz, and Joshua Streit join Ann Walter of Unionville Center and Christa Wolf of Mechanicsburg to complete the ensemble cast. Sound artists Joel Kendall and Steve Wieringa, both of Plain City, perform the live sound effects using historically accurate props and common household items.

Tickets are now available for purchase online via Ticket Leap, or in person at the Plain City Druggist. There will also be a limited number of seats available at the door.