Review by: Paul Towers, 4/11/15
It’s A Wonderful Life by Tony Palermo from the film by Frank Capra
A Bridge House Production
Curve, 3rd-5th November
“amazing vocal dexterity”
In 1939 Philip Van Doren Stern wrote a sweet little short story called The Greatest Gift which was made into a radio play and thence a 1946 film by Frank Capra starring James Stewart as George Bailey, a man who has put aside his dreams and aspirations to provide for his family and community.
George is pushed to the edge, literally, by the realisation that his mounting financial debts can only be resolved by his family cashing in his life insurance policy.
Looking down from heaven is Clarence, an angel who is desperate to earn his longed for wings. His boss decides that persuading George to forego his leap to oblivion from a river bridge will be ample to get Clarence his feathers.
As a strategy to dissuade George from ending it all Clarence allows him to see what his family and community would be like if he hadn’t been born.
Despite being in black and white It’s A Wonderful Life continues to be a must-see staple of Christmas TV schedules the world over.
So, how to transfer this to the stage? The solution has been to go back to its former incarnation as a radio play. The theatrical conceit is that we, the audience, play the part of the radio audience as if we were at a live broadcast in 1950’s America, complete with hilariously inappropriate but accurate commercial interludes between the acts.
A small but very talented cast of six, plus an onstage sound effects girl, create the entire thirty two characters of the show using just their voices and a few hats. Their vocal dexterity is amazing to witness and their ability to switch instantly from part to part is astonishing. Each of the actors has to play several parts, except for Oliver Stoney who only plays George Bailey. The almost bare stage is peopled solely by a couple of microphones and a table of sound effect apparatus and yet you believe in the cold river, the snowstorm, the derelict house and our hero’s final redemption.
It’s A Wonderful Life is at Curve for one more day and then is touring nationally. Full details at www.wonderfultour.co.uk
First published in Western Gazette
(c) Paul Towers 2015
(c) Paul Towers 2015