The Gamm Theatre’s artistic director, Tony Estrella, has taken the Christmas classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” adapted as “A Live Radio Play” by Joe Landry, and directed by Damon Kiely, and turned it into a wonderful, warm and fuzzy evening of theatre.
The Gamm stage becomes the Warwick home of radio station WGAM, set back in the mid-forties and filled with vintage costume design by Jessie Darrell Jarbadan and a set that takes you back to the ’40s by Michael McGarty.
Estrella plays the beleaguered Bedford Falls Building and Loan executive George Bailey, surrounded by six talented actors who play a variety of rolls, all working together in perfect harmony to bring joy, suspense, conflict and love to the classic tale.
Has anyone ever seen a Foley artist get credit in a play? Does anyone even know what a Foley artist is or does?
D.J. Potter display his skills on stage right, where the audience can watch his fast, frantic actions as he provides all of the sounds needed to enhance the imagination of the radio audience.
With scripts in hand (which they seldom even looked at) the actors make the radio play come alive, switching characters, using intonations and displaying a range of emotions.
Don’t be late for the hour and a half, intermission-less production or you’ll miss joining the cast in “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” complete with Potter’s incredible array of sound effects, setting the tone for the fun that lies ahead. The audience also gets a chance, in a most clever way, for their words to be part of the play. There are even pauses for two commercials by the production’s sponsors, Greenwood Credit Union and Rhode Island College, perfect additions that fit the tone of the play.
I won’t insult you by explaining the plot, because if you don’t know who George Bailey is, or how he gave up his dream of going to college and traveling around the world to help his friends and neighbors through difficult times, well…
What I will tell you is that the entire cast is terrific. Fred Sullivan Jr. convinces you that he is the lovable angel, seeking to earn his wings by helping George to see what would happen if he had never been born. And then, barely taking a breath, he is the mean, selfish bane in George’s existence, bank owner Henry F. Potter. Jeff Church plays a bunch of characters and appears to be having a ball, bouncing around the stage while doing so. Madleine Lambert convinces us that she is both George’s mother and wife, while Lynsey Ford and Richard Noble also show their talents with smooth transitions. Newcomer Emily Turtle shows her smooth talents as the announcer and pianist, switching occasionally to George’s high-pitched daughter.
“It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play” is at Warwick’s Gamm Theatre through December 22. Treat yourself to this wonderful Christmas gift. Call 723-4266 for reservations.