Local ensemble cast succeeds with rendition of classic

By Katie Alicea-Tilton
Citizen Chronicle Theatre Critic

SOUTHBRIDGE — The Gateways Players Theatre Inc. are closing their 2018 season with a timeless classic from a different view: It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play.

The holiday classic, written by Joe Landry, is currently playing at Fellowship Hall at the Elm Street Congregational Church, 61 Elm Street, Southbridge, and brings us back to a time where live radio plays were a very popular type of entertainment.  This play-within-a-play not only shows us a story of love and life, but it shows us a comedic version of the hard work that goes into this type of production.

It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play whisks the audience away to a radio station set back in the 1940s which even included an “Applause” sign and broadcasting commercials.   During this time period, live radio plays were to the world what television shows are to us today. This story takes us to the small town of Bedford Falls in upstate New York following the story of George Bailey (John Kennedy) who could not wait to get out and explore the world.  One day a very unfortunate event takes place causing George to put aside his dreams to help others.  After years of his selfless sacrifice, George begins to questions his life and its purpose, which is when his Guardian Angel Clarence (Jeff Coggins) steps in to show him the impact that he has not only made on his family but all the people around him.  It reminds us that we all play an important role and to always have faith and believe.

Director Mary Gahagan, producer Barbara Day, and stage manager Erin Morin put together an A-team of local actors to bring this play to life.  Playing a character in any play has its demands, but taking on the role of someone taking on multiple roles is quite difficult.  The cast did a phenomenal job, some even having to switch their tones and or accents from one line to the next to portray a different character.  The cast consisted of Kennedy, Coggins, Helen Churchill, Ryan Drago, Courtney Gallipeau, Andy Grinnan, Madeline Grinnan, Angie Grove, Stephen Jean, Gwen O’Brien, Joseph Sawyer, Michael Swanson and Samson Zilic.  A key piece to any radio show production is the sound guy played by Billy Bolster as the comedic Bud Davis, adding sound effects such as wind, sirens, crashing windows and much more.  Pulling off a classic is hard, but the Gateways Players cast and crew nailed it.

It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play gives you the feels but with a comical twist.  It reminds us that nothing in life is easy and obstacles will always arise but you just need to have faith and never give up on yourself and those around you.  It is a great lesson to be reminded of, especially around the holidays.

The show will be playing for the remainder of the weekend at the Fellowship Hall at the Elm Street Congregational Church, 61 Elm Street, Southbridge. The Saturday, December 1 performance begins at 7:30 p.m. with a Sunday, December 2 matinee at 2 pm.

 

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