Review: 'It's a Wonderful Life' at the Lunchbox Theatre

Vicki Trask

  • OnStage Calgary Critic

There are a few shows that are simply titled “Classics” around the holidays and we accept them as a part of our tradition. For a lot of people in Calgary, it’s Theatre’s Calgary’s production of “A Christmas Carol” (celebrating its 30th Season of performances). I’d like to introduce you to another tradition which I hope you’ll adopt: Live Radio Theatre. 

I attended Lunchbox Theatre’s Christmas production on Tuesday December 13th 2016; an adaption of the classic movie “It’s a Wonderful Life”. I adore the story of George Bailey and his heartwarming tale of despair and hope, but even I can admit that it’s all been done before. In Southern Alberta alone, I’ve heard of at least three theatre companies taking their own spin on the played out story this holiday season. 

This certainly isn’t the first time “It’s a Wonderful Life” has been adapted for Radio Theatre but I was so captivated by the genre and Lunchbox’s take that I must encourage you to see this production. 

Directed by Craig Hall and adapted by Joe Landry, these two men have created a fun and engaging world to play in. Each actor takes on multiple roles beyond the characters and voices they embody. In true radio fashion, all (with a few minor exceptions) of the sound are performed live by the actors – helmed by Connor Pritchard as the Studio Assistant Edward Irvine. From slamming doors, to crunching snow to background chatter, I was absolutely impressed with everyone. 

Kevin Rothery plays Freddie Filmore, the radio host as well as the voice of Clarence and others townsfolk. Devon Dubnyk plays Jake Laurents, the voice of George Bailey in all his James Stewart glory. Arielle Rombough plays Sally Applewhite, the voice of Mary Hatch, the ever endearing wife. Katherine Fadum plays Lana Sherwood, the voice of Violet Bick, the female children, and a host of other townspeople. I adored her voice work. Each character had its own entertaining personality.

Andy Curtis plays Harry Heywood, the voice of Uncle Billy and the male townspeople. Another fantastic performance by Mr. Curtis. 

One thing about doing a performance like this is that all of the work goes into the actor’s voice. While their performances were fine-tuned and vocally astounding, there’s very little physicality; very little action – except running from microphone to microphone – so from a visual perspective, I can’t tell you much about the characters who are taking on these voices. Honestly, it didn’t matter to me. What drew my attention for this lunch hour production was the Foley used in the production.

Reproduction of sound through human innovation is why I want you to see Lunchbox’s “It’s a Wonderful Life.” It’s an absolutely fascinating process to watch and I want everyone to see it. The actors recreate a classic Christmas story with the power of their voices and provide audiences with a heartwarming and entertaining break from the holiday rush.

“It’s a Wonderful Life” will run at Lunchbox Theatre until December 21st 2016.