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THEATER REVIEW - It's A Wonderful Life

by Chris Conley

THEATER REVIEW (WSAU)   I missed one of my favorite Wisconsin holiday traditions. For the last five years I'd attended Wausau Community Theater's open-casting production of "A Christmas Carol." I love this production, complete with carolers and my friends and neighbors as villagers and extras. This year I was in New York for my father's 70th birthday during its four-day run.

This year, as an alternative, I attended Central Wisconsin Area Community Theater's radio play "It's A Wonderful Life" in Stevens Point. It was a delight.

I've watched the movie so many times that I know every word, to the point that I'm aware when the radio-play makes edits or substitutes narration for dialogue. No matter. The gift of this play is that I can close my eyes and picture a perfect, snow-covered downtown Bedford Falls. I imagine the dingy Bailey Brothers Building & Loan. My mind pictures the steam engine coming to a stop and Harry Bailey and his wife getting off the Pullman Car, or Mr. Potter's office and George trying the expensive cigar.

So much of our entertainment today comes from screen-watching... television, movies, our tablets, phones, and internet access. I've heard psychologists make the case that our minds are fundamentally changed; that we've lost some our our ability to imagine. That may be true. The counter-argument is that this radio script has become a hit in England and Ireland, where almost no one knows that Frank Capra movie.

I'm thankful for the radio, where we tell stories that you see in your mind's eye. And I'm thankful for a very enjoyable radio drama. Next year I will have two holiday traditions at the theater.

Chris Conley
12.21.13
Image: "It's A Wonderful Life" radio play - Central Wisconsin Area Community Theater