It may be one of the lesser-known Christmas tales for younger generations, but It’s a Wonderful Life definitely resonates as one of the enduring tales of holiday redemption.
“Most of the people that are involved are kind of children of the ’40s; everybody loves that era,” says Dana Andersen. He’s speaking of the cast and crew behind Capitol Theatre’s staged radio-play version of It’s a Wonderful Life, following on the heels of their Hitchcock Radio Show from a couple months ago. Staged radio plays are one of the new shows that Andersen has brought to the Capitol in his tenure as artistic director over the past year and a half.
“I think it’s just an old art form that people don’t think much about, but when people actually hear [radio plays] they really enjoy them,” Andersen says. “And I’ve heard them still; they’ll play old Lone Ranger episodes or The Shadow or The Green Hornet. There’s even a modern one called Afghanada, about soldiers in Afghanistan, on CBC.”
A couple radio versions of Frank Capra’s celebrated 1946 film appeared in the late ’40s and early ’50s; the Capitol is using Joe Landry’s late ’90s stage adaptation of It’s a Wonderful Life, which is presented as a ’40s-era radio show. Edmonton audiences may recall that Teatro la Quindicina has previously done an annual production of this same radio stage show at the Varscona, but have changed up that tradition this year.
“They’re totally on script but they’re reacting to each other: what you hear on the radio and what’s going on in the background is where you get the juxtaposition of what people see and what people hear,” Andersen explains. “We have old-timey radio ads, adapted for the Fort so we can advertise some of the stuff that’s coming to Fort Edmonton Park. The musician and the foley are on one side of the stage doing the music and sound; the foley is what makes the sound effects for the radio programs. We’ll have doors that open and slam, bells and whistles, incidental music playing in the background.
“I think ours is a show that if grandpa wants to come and close his eyes, he can listen to it and still get the whole play, just like back in the day.”
Thu, Dec 18 (8 pm & 12:30 pm matinee), Fri, Dec 19 (12:30 pm matinee), Sat, Dec 20 (8 pm), Sun, Dec 21 (2 pm matinee), Tue, Dec 23 (8 pm & 12:30 pm matinee)
Capitol Theatre, Fort Edmonton Park, $12 – $18