COURTESY PHOTOKelly Britt

‘Wonderful Life’ gets radio treatment at Broadway By the Bay

Most children, and even many middle aged folks, don’t know what a radio play is. Broadway by the Bay Executive Director Daren Carollo hopes to change that with the troupe’s holiday production of Joe Landry’s “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play.”

The show, onstage this weekend at the Fox Theatre in Redwood City, is based on Frank Capra’s famed movie starring Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey, who, thanks to intervention from a guardian angel on Christmas Eve, learns what the world would be like if he didn’t exist.

In Landry’s version, the classic tale is staged as though it were being produced as a 1940s radio play, and the set is simply a radio station’s studio. Eight actors portray many roles, in the same way such plays were produced in the 1930s and ’40s.

Despite the minimalist approach, this “Wonderful Life” – directed by Milissa Carey, who teaches at Foothill College and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music – is “definitely fully realized,” says Carollo, and is packed with period costumes and details.

“Casting has really been the only challenge,” says Carollo. “We made sure we found actors with a wide range. They need to use different parts of their voices, kind of like ‘The Simpsons.’”

The cast includes Joshua Schell as George Bailey, Kelly Britt as Mary Hatch Bailey, Timothy Beagley as Freddie Filmore, Todd Wright as Harry “Jazzbo” Heywood and Caitlin Papp as Lana Sherwood.

Carollo says “tons of props” create sound myriad sound effects, including including doors opening and closing, cars running, and phones ringing.

Growing up in Chicago, Carollo says Christmas was always more about how his family could spend the day together than it was about gifts. “There was one or two gifts per kid,” he says. The message that Christmas should be less about presents and more about spending time with loved ones is what he hopes to convey with “Wonderful Life,” which runs for a few days directly after Christmas, he says, to “prolong the holiday spirit.”

Carollo says his favorite part of the story is its message. “It’s a nostalgic reminder of what the holidays really need to be about.”

Speaking of nostalgia, the production’s venue – a structure listed on the National Register of Historic Places – evokes old times. While there are no longer footlights and heavy velvet curtains, the Fox “still feels like 1928,” says Carollo.

IF YOU GO

It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play

Presented by Broadway By the Bay

When: 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday

Where: Fox Theatre, 2221 Broadway, Redwood City

Tickets: $25 to $55

Contact: (650) 579-5565, www.broadwaybythebay.org

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