Step back in time this holiday at Victoria Theatre
Many of us have our favorite holiday movies this time of year – “Miracle on 34th Street,” “Christmas Story,” “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” “Home Alone,” “Scrooged” or even the timeless classic “It’s a Wonderful Life.” We have also heard our parents or grandparents talk about days before television where the family would sit around the radio and hear the news of the day or great stories. What were those days like? What went on in the studio behind the scenes? Now you have an opportunity to find out!
“It’s a Wonderful Life –A live radio play” is running at The Victoria Theatre through Sunday, Dec. 15. There are moments where if you were to close your eyes during the show, it would have been exactly like the days gone by sitting by the radio. However, you will not want to close your eyes because there is just too much to take in on stage. Most of the actors play multiple roles in the show. As good as the acting and singing is, the highlight of the stage would have to be Kevin Anderson, the Foley Artist (sound effects). Anderson doesn’t miss a beat, a drip, a splash or a step.
There are many many other strong performances in the production, one being Todd Lawson in the roles of Jake Laurents/George. Lawson brings George to life before our eyes like we didn’t get to experience in the movie. Lawson’s emotional performance is memorable and believable. Lawson is racked with emotion as his world falls apart before his eyes, only to have his guardian angel, Clarence, show him what life would have been like without him. That angel is another memorable performer played by Mark Chmiel who also plays Clarence/Harry “Jazzbo” Heywood. Chmiel’s energy on the stage is palpable. His portrayal of Clarence is mild-mannered and heartfelt. Chmiel’s other “characters,” as portrayed by Harry “Jazzbo” Heywood, are beyond energetic.
Other highlights came from Betsy DiLellio, who played Sally Applewhite/Mary. DiLellio was outstanding in her portrayal of Mary, who tries to keep her family together in the face of financial ruin and never gives up on her husband. Scott Stoney plays both Freddie Filmore and Potter. Stoney delivers the versatility to move from character to character seamlessly. Stoney’s Potter is cranky and self-serving, and his Freddie Filmore is the perfect host. Susan J. Jacks plays Lana Sherwood and Violet. Susan plays everything from children to adults in this production, with great flair.
Joe Deer does a great job as the director of this production and certainly delivers a believable and historic production that takes us right into the studio of the old WHIO AM radio at the top of the Biltmore Tower in downtown Dayton.
The story of “It’s a Wonderful Life” translates into today’s world very easily. In these days of financial uncertainty, with foreclosures and unemployment at record highs, this story speaks to the emotion of those difficult days and the effect they have on us, our families and our happiness.
However, this takes a different twist, just as it did in the movie. What would happen if we hadn’t been born? How many lives have we touched? How many things would be different? Would we be prepared for what we would see if that happened? I can’t begin to count the times I have watched this movie over the years and knew exactly what was coming. However, there were moments in this production I was moved to tears. This is a show not to be missed.
Add this show to the list of priorities for the holiday season. We sometimes need to take a moment during the holidays to think about what we do for others or how we can give back to our community. Not only does this story talk about all of the good George did for his little town of Bedford Falls, but the impact of paying things forward as his community came through for him. There are plenty of ways to pay things forward during the holidays there are people with needs all around us.
Find a friend and bring them to this show! Our arts community just keeps on giving and paying forward for us, and now we can give back to them.
The Human Race Theatre Company presents “It’s a Wonderful Life – A live radio play” through Sunday, Dec. 15, at The Victoria Theatre, 138 N. Main St. For ticket information, please visit ticketcenterstage.com or call the box office at 937.228.3630. For more information on the show, please visit humanracetheatre.org.
Reach DCP theater critic Brian P. Sharp at theatre@DaytonCityPaper.com.