‘Wonderful Life’ runs due to familiar cast
By Randall G. Mielke For Sun-Times Media December 6, 2012 2:54PM
“It’s A Wonderful Life - Live Radio Broadcast” will be presented at the Rialto on Dec. 13. | File Photo
‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ Radio Broadcast
♦ 7 p.m. Dec. 14
♦ Rialto Square Theatre, 102 N. Chicago St., Joliet
♦ Tickets, $10
♦ (815) 726-6600
Updated: December 6, 2012 4:56PM
Like returning to a childhood home for the holidays, many of the actors and actresses in the Rialto Square Theatre’s presentation of “It’s a Wonderful Life” radio broadcast are returning from prior years to re-create their roles.
That is a distinct benefit for Lori Carmine, the show’s director and the technical director of the Rialto Square Theatre.
“The biggest challenge we face is the time frame,” said Carmine about getting the show ready for presentation. “The cast rehearses for one day. That’s when having the same people in the same roles becomes a huge asset.”
NextMedia Radio will present the live radio broadcast and theater performance of “It’s a Wonderful Life” on Dec. 14 at Rialto Square Theatre. This is the seventh year that the show is being presented. Ticket sales from the show will benefit the Rialto Square Theatre’s major endowment fund.
The play is inspired by the 1946 holiday film classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” which starred James Stewart and Donna Reed. The annual live radio broadcast and theater performance at the Rialto will be broadcast live on WJOL AM 1340. Audience members will experience how live radio broadcasts used to be made, complete with sound effects, while watching a favorite Christmas classic come to life on stage.
In this year’s version, several actors and actresses will be reprising their roles in the show including husband and wife Kevin Haines and Christine Haines (as George and Mary Bailey) and Larry Walsh as Clarence, the angel.
“Thankfully, they are all back,” Carmine said. “I really don’t know who else could play those roles. I believe they all capture the original movie performances perfectly. Plus, they all know what they are doing. I do not worry about them at all.”
According to Carmine, performers carry their scripts in their hands, and drop the pages on the floor as they are finished, just as they did in the days of radio. The show follows the movie very closely, but it is presented as if it were a live radio play in the 1940’s with an announcer introducing the show and the audience responding to “applause” signs. Just as in the old radio plays, the sound effects are created on stage, and the audience contributes to the production.
“The audience really is a member of the cast,” Carmine said. “They become the angry mob during the run on the bank, and the neighbors that pitch in together to help George. The audience also feeds the energy of the performers on stage.”
Carmine finds great satisfaction in directing the production.
“I love hearing the audience really get into the moment,” she said. “I love watching the performers find a connection with the audience. I watch them take ownership of this performance. And they have fun. And the audience has fun. Plus, the message of the play is still pertinent today; maybe more so than in 1946. It is our relationships that have true value and worth.”