“It’s a Wonderful Life: A Radio Play” 

Dec. 5, the Rep

click to enlarge LIVE ONSTAGE: Larry Daggett, Alanna Newton and Josh Thelin star in "It's a Wonderful Life."
  • LIVE ONSTAGE: Larry Daggett, Alanna Newton and Josh Thelin star in "It's a Wonderful Life."

The ambiance at opening night of the Rep's “It's a Wonderful Life” was, I think, exactly as director Bob Hupp intended. Curled up in my box seat next to my husband and drinking a cup of cocoa, I was filled with nostalgia and my Christmas spirit was kicked into high gear.  

The film version of “It's a Wonderful Life” developed icon status after its debut. Rather than try to compete with the film, Joe Landry's version is set in New York City on Christmas Eve 1946, just before the start of a live national radio broadcast of the story. 

This requires all of the cast's five actors to play at least two roles simultaneously during the 90-minute production. Each plays an actor who plays at least one role in the radio play. Altogether, the cast must create and balance more than 30 roles. Hupp added roughly 15 minutes of pre-show improvisation, which helped develop a love story between Sally Applewhite (Amy Hutchins) and Jake Laurents (Josh Thelin). It rounded out the characters and furthered the play's conceit; without it, the actors might have been buried in all of the complicated narrative shifts the production requires. 

Sound effects take a starring role; through a mix of contemporary and 1940s technology, the Rep props artists created a delightful combination of sounds that do as much work as the actors. 

There are moments when Larry Daggett, who plays radio announcer Freddy Filmore and at least 13 other roles, plays three roles at once, as well as manning a piano. Daggett's work is flawless, funny and worth the ticket price in and of itself. 

Alanna Hamill Newton, who plays Lana Sherwood and a series of other characters, mirrors Daggett's energy and enthusiasm. Hutchins works beautifully with Thelin, who plays Laurents and George Bailey. They expertly keep their “lover's spat” from the pre-show improvisation alive as they slam doors, honk horns and crunch “snow” with packets of corn starch. By the end of the production, they manage a reconciliation that adds one more heartwarming layer to the famous final scene.



Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Shelle Stormoe

  • Toad Suck Buck's is Doing it Right on the River

    One of the things we love about Arkansas is that places like Toad Suck Buck's are everywhere, tucked into corners you wouldn't know to look for unless you're a local. It’s clear the folks who live around the Stony Point area of Perry county think they have a gem in this place, and they might be right.
    • Jul 30, 2014
  • A Half-Century of Tradition Still Pleases at Terri-Lynn's BBQ & Deli

    Terri-Lynn’s BBQ & Deli on Rodney Parham has been quietly serving up their menu since 1959. Like many places in town, they have built a steady following by consistently providing quality food at a decent price.
    • Jul 3, 2014
  • Cooking with Capeo at Eggshells Kitchen Co.

    Nestled right in middle of the Heights is Eggshells Kitchen Co. Eggshells bills itself as the "toy store for foodies." This is a very apt description: whether you are a cook, chef, griller or mixologist you will find something here that you need or never even knew you needed. But one of our favorite things they do is host cooking demonstrations featuring some of the finest food stars in the city.
    • Jun 13, 2014
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • An uneven 'Macbeth'

    Michael Stewart Allen as Macbeth carries the play.
    • Sep 17, 2015

Most Shared

  • "Nasty Woman" at HSU: 32 artists celebrate Women's History Month

    A photograph of a woman doing a headstand so you can see her red underpants. A sculpture by Robyn Horn titled "Approaching Collapse." Those and other works that assistant professor of photography Margo Duvall says "celebrates the female voice in art" for Women's History Month go on exhibit March 1 in the gallery in the Russell Fine Arts Building.
  • Home again

    The plan, formulated months ago, was this: Ellen and I were going to go to Washington for inauguration festivities, then fly out the morning after the balls for Panama City and a long planned cruise to begin with a Panama Canal passage.
  • Who needs courts?

    Not since the John Birch Society's "Impeach Earl Warren" billboards littered Southern roadsides after the Supreme Court's school-integration decision in 1954 has the American judicial system been under such siege, but who would have thought the trifling Arkansas legislature would lead the charge?
  • Bungling

    If the late, great Donald Westlake had written spy thrillers instead of crime capers, they'd read a lot like the opening weeks of the Trump administration.
  • UPDATE: Campus carry bill amended by Senate to require training

    The Senate this morning added an amendment to Rep. Charlie Collins campus carry bill that incorporates the effort denied in committee yesterday to require a 16-hour additional training period before university staff members with concealed carry permits may take the weapons on campus.

Latest in Theater Reviews

Visit Arkansas

New Crystal Bridges exhibit explores Mexican-American border

New Crystal Bridges exhibit explores Mexican-American border

Border Cantos is a timely, new and free exhibit now on view at Crystal Bridges.

Event Calendar

« »


  1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 9 10 11
12 13 14 15 16 17 18
19 20 21 22 23 24 25
26 27 28  

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Charlie Wilson at Verizon Arena

    • Thanks for sharing more information about "DADDY ISSUES, VEGAS VERDES". I will see see this…

    • on February 16, 2017

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation