IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE: The 1946 Live Radio Play, presented by The Half Moon Theatre, opened at the Culinary Institute of America -Marriot Pavilion ]December 5, 2014.
And what an evening it was! From the time we arrived, Joe and I were completely entranced by the CIA’s beautiful, spacious lobby adorned with festive holiday decorations. The sweet aroma of coffees and chocolates filled the air. After a hearty welcome by many courteous hosts, we enjoyed seasonal caroling by the Fontaine Family Five: Charlotte India Katz; Melissa Marye Lehman; Kenneth Kyle Martinez; Barbara Rankin – who also perform throughout It’s a Wonderful Life magnificently enhancing this classic Radio Play’s message.
It’s A Wonderful Life was adapted for Radio on Stage by Tony Palermo (original score composed and arranged by Jonathan Green). We entered a gorgeous, spacious auditorium, found our seats (which turned out to be most comfortable) and realized that we had entered a simulated set depicting “WHMT,” a 1946 radio studio, complete with standing microphones, an old upright piano, a huge sound effects table and old clock. The Fontaine Family Five were already singing on stage, the houselights on. Soon, Rosie Bartholomew (Ien Denio Sound Effects Artist), appeared onstage to check her instruments for the broadcast. Cast members all appeared on stage and we were asked by Lionel Hardcastle (Darrell James), Radio MC to participate the old fashioned way – audience response to large applause signs held up by “Rosie”.
This Holiday favorite was performed before a live radio audience this evening for broadcast as a classic during the Christmas season, commercials and all. George Bailey, played exquisitely by John Summerford, because of a series of life’s circumstances, feels at his lowest ebb and stands on a bridge Christmas Eve, ready to take his own life, when he is miraculously saved by Clarence (Darell
James), Heaven sent Angel, Second Class (who has been sent to save George and in so doing would finally earn his wings).
In his wisdom, Clarence shows George how much he means to all the people in his life that know and love him and asks him to consider how so many lives would have been affected if he was never born. As the plot unfolds, we are moved by the humanity of the play’s message that “no one is a failure who has friends” (from the Director’s Notes). Our lives all have meaning and touch each other.
Kudos to Michael Schiralli, Director, for a sterling show in every possible way. Joe and I are in complete awe of performances given by Jason Cohen, Darrell James, Molly Renfroe Katz, Amy Lemon Olson, John Summerford, The Fontaine Family Five, and Ien DeNio (sound design), as well as the entire P\production staff. Moreover, we especially appreciated the fine work of the very skilled and effervescent actors, who developed charming characterizations of the many colorful citizens of Bedford Falls, NY; and, at the same time, created their many voices, all with sharp clarity and superb enunciation. It’s a Wonderful Life is a wonderful experience!
IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE: The 1946 Live Radio Play is scheduled to run at The Culinary Institute of America – Marriot Pavilion until December 20th: Fridays at 8 p.m. (pre-show talk on Sound Effects, 12/ 12, 7 p.m.); Saturdays (dinner option at the CIA 12/13 pre-show) Show at 8 p.m.; 12/20- 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.; Sundays: 12/7; 12/14 at 2 p.m. Wednesday, 12/ 17 at 8 p.m. (preshow talk about the film, 7 p.m.). For further information and tickets call 800-838-3006 or visit
Photo’s Courtesy of Jen Kiaba