Review “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play” at Merrimack Repertory Theatre

Angelica Potter

“It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play”, adapted by Joe Landry, is a presentation of the classic film as a 1940’s radio drama. The story of George Bailey comes to life as five talented actors gather around microphones to voice over 40 characters and create superb sound effects live onstage. The audience itself plays the role of the live studio audience and is encouraged from the start to react to the story as it plays out to “help the listeners at home fully enjoy the story”.  The radio station, WMRT, brought the audience, many of whom could have been around during the glory days of radio programing, back in time to a Christmas Eve performance of one of the most beloved holiday stories.  

Photo. MRT

Photo. MRT

A large part of the play includes the cast creating live sound effects; everything from crunching snow to wind to splashing water to moving vehicles in addition to a few dozen other effects. Each of these was executed effortlessly and skillfully by the cast. Amanda Williams did a fantastic job as Scenic Designer creating a detailed and prop filled set that was fully utilized throughout the play. Together with Sound Designer Jonathan Mastro and Lighting Designer Carter Miller they masterfully created a realistic and fully functional radio station stage that gave the cast everything they needed to brilliantly bring this story to life.

The five incredibly talented actors were directed by Megan Sandberg-Zakian and include Jason Bowen, Joel Colodner, Veronika Duerr, Nael Nacer and Celeste Oliva. Each actor delivered unique characterizations and vocal diversity for each of their various characters throughout the play. As a group they worked together seamlessly and were wonderfully dynamic and compelling. From the moment they walked on stage they captured the audience’s attention and it wasn’t long before they captured their hearts with their magnificent performances. 

The play, running at 90 minutes with no intermission, flew by and fully enthralled the audience from start to finish.  Simply put this show will make you laugh, make you cry, and warm your heart on the coldest of winter nights. 

“It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play” plays at Merrimack Repertory Theatre until December 20th. Tickets range from $60-$23 and are selling fast so don’t hesitate to book your seats for this must see holiday production.  To purchase tickets or find more information check out or call 978-654-4678.

For more of my reviews and theatrical thoughts check out: