Actors voice the radio play classic "It's a Wonderful Life" at the Kenmor Theatre Dec. 10-11. (Alexis Stockford/The Morden Times)
The cast and crew at the Kenmor Theatre were decked out in full ‘40s style, but the audience could have closed their eyes and gotten the same effect.
Candlewick’s high school aged actors expanded their repertoire to radio play for this year’s fall production of “It’s a Wonderful Life” Dec. 10-11.
“The kids, a lot of them had never heard of it before,” director Richard Klassen said.
Despite that, he added, the format was well suited for the fall production, usually less elaborate than their end-of-year wrap up in spring and usually taking on a holiday theme. When the rights became available in Canada earlier this year, Candlewick jumped at it and the cast quickly became enamoured with the script, Klassen said.
It was a performance within a performance as actors voiced the story of George Bailey, the dependable, but unfulfilled and suicidal small-time businessman, his guardian angel, Clarence, who shows him a world without him in it in an effort to rekindle his will to live, and a host of other characters.
Cast, dressed as period-typical voice actors, gave audience a crash course in radio play production. The brush of a broom became a fall into the hydrangea bushes as the sound booth provided the live effects radio play is now famous for, a dance scene had the actors stomping, and the 18-person cast was forced to stretch their vocal skills for the script’s 63 roles.
“There’s a couple of characters, of course, that have to stay true to their one character, because that character is throughout [the play], but the others-that’s another part of this, developing characters, but to do that with the voice,” Klassen said.
Those who grew up with the 1946 film adaptation would have found a close match to their memories, both in script, lingo and vocal cadence.
“Usually I tell them, ‘Don’t watch the movie,” Klassen said. “‘I want you to develop your own characters,’ but here, because they’re not on stage as the characters, per se, acting out the play, I told them, ‘Watch the play. Get ideas from the characters that you’re seeing, because now I want you to add that to the voices. Get the nuances behind what you’re saying [in the] different lines, so that as you’re delivering the lines, it comes across as these characters.’ But at the same time, I told them, ‘Make it your own.’”
With the fall production behind them, Candlewick’s Sr. Xplor program will now turn to its spring piece, traditionally the biggest event on their calendar.
No details have been announced on the upcoming production.