Victor Valley College’s “It’s A Wonderful Life” Wows With Radio Play

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Photograph by Jason T. Smith.

By Nolan P. Smith

High Desert Daily

(Victorville)—It is a timeless classic, and one that is considered one of the greatest films of all time. Frank Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life” is a story about the triumph of the human spirit in the face of overwhelming odds. Victor Valley College’s Performing Arts Department had a one-week presentation of the story, which concluded on Sunday. Yet, this was not a play in the traditional sense: it was a live radio play brought to life on stage.

What is a radio play? Bringing back the art form of a purely acoustic performance, radio plays were played over the airwaves for people to enjoy. VVC used this now unique method for this special engagement, directed by Ed Heaberlin. At first, when hearing the words radio play, one might not see a reason to go watch it in person, but to witness it live was a treat. The stage was set with four microphone stands, a table full of items used for special effects, and a cast of characters sitting down, waiting for their turn “on air”. This was a performance like none other I have attended, and that is definitely a good thing.

The story is the same as we all remember it, with some minor changes as it was adapted for a radio play by Phillip Grecian. George Bailey is at a point in his life where he tries to end it all, that is before he is visited by an angel who shows him what his life would be like had he never been born. The strong message is present, as we hear George go from being just a boy to a troubled man. One change I think everyone made note of in these performances is that there is no Clarence the angel: here, it is Clara the angel, which takes some getting used to.

Philip Barone is the young actor that outshined his peers as the legendary protagonist, George Baily. Barone’s acting shined bright, as his delivery of lines brought back memories of Jimmy Stewart’s iconic performance. There were quite a few strong performances, like Jonathon Santiago’s Mr. Gower (he actually provided voices for a few characters), Waylon Waters vocal portrayal of Nick the bartender, and Hannah Waters as the love of George’s life, Mary Hatch Bailey.

Everyone who approached the microphones were well dressed, even though it’s a radio play, which added a nice touch. The special effects table was an interesting piece: home to a small door, a bucket of water and more, all used to help bring the scenes to life, and did so wonderfully. I was thoroughly impressed with how the effects came out in the production, as it helped enhance the entire piece.

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Photograph by Jason T. Smith.

When I first heard “live, radio play”, I was a bit nervous to attend the event. I am glad I did, as it was great to witness this medium first hand. The actors did a tremendous job, the sound effects were well thought out, and all in all, I left with a smile on my face, knowing I had just witnessed something special.

For more information on Victor Valley College, be sure to visit them online at www.vvc.edu.

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