Get Into Holiday Spirit With Live Radio Play By Shakespeare Company

By Dawn M. Chiossi

The Shakespeare Company of New Jersey in Madison invites everyone to surround themselves with the uplifting spirit of the holidays with its next production: It’s A Wonderful Life:  A Live Radio Play.

Performances began Nov. 30 and continue through Dec. 31.

“Each man’s life touches so many other lives,” such is the message of that heartwarming timeless holiday classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” The movie is as much of a staple of the holiday season as any celebration or tradition that people may have.

The movie resonates in people as everyone can relate to George Bailey’s struggle with regret, of feeling stuck, of feeling like a failure because of unfulfilled dreams and ambitions. It is a heartfelt moment when the audience learns through George Bailey that the life he judged as ordinary, a life filled with good deeds, and concern for his family and friends, was a wonderful one after all.

This unique production from the Shakespeare Theater Company tells the story of George Bailey in a new way that is sure to strike a chord with everyone.  In this production, the classic film is reimagined as a 1940’s radio show. The cast has nine actors, and a Foley artist representing more than 40 characters from the film.  There’s a live pianist providing underscoring and the Foley artist creating most of the necessary sound effects live on stage.

In this production, a group of actors and technicians gather together in a 1940’s radio station at holiday time to perform a live broadcast of “It’s A Wonderful Life.” Peppered with Foley sound effects and commercials from the era, the play is both charming and humorous. It gives the audience all the warmth and inspiration that the film is so famous for.

According to Director Doug West, this is the first year for the company showing the full production. Interestingly, the idea grew out of another holiday show that the company performed.

“We had a one night staged reading of the play last year as part of our “Something Merry This Way Comes,” holiday reading series,” he shares.

It was embraced so favorably, it just took off.

The play is adapted by Joe Landry and directed by Doug West with John Keabler as George Bailey and Susan Maris as Mary Hatch.

Performances will be held Tuesday, Wednesday, Sunday at 7:30 p.m.; Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. with matinee performances on Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m..

Prices range from $49-$62.

“The cast and creative team are fantastic, so this production has been a great deal of fun to work on,” West praises. “I’ve been a fan of the film for years, and I‘ve really enjoyed this opportunity to bring such a fun, touching, moving story to life.”

West goes on to say that the production is “Very faithful to the original film screenplay. There were a handful of adaptations made to the script by adapter Joe Landry in order to accommodate the Radio Play concept. There are also added bits of narration and an additional scene to help move some of the narrative along.”

Tickets are going fast. West anticipates that they will have more than 5,000 patrons this holiday season.

“The Theater is proud to present holiday classics at this time of the year and It’s A Wonderful Life: A Radio Play is a perfect fit for our 2017 season as it embodies the inspiring spirit of the holidays,” says West.

To purchase tickets, call the Box Office at 973-408-5600 or visit

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