It’s a ‘Wonderful’ show

  • “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play” at the Peterborough Players starring Leon Axt, Emily Allinson, Kraig Swartz, Bridget Beirne, Tom Frey and Eleanor Pearson.  Photo by William Howell

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 12/11/2018 11:36:14 AM

The Peterborough Players production of “It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play” is a perfect way to warm a cold winter evening with a holiday classic that comes with only a slight twist.

The play was adapted for the stage by Joe Landry from the 1946 film “It’s A Wonderful Life” that hit box offices with a thud when released.

The movie, however, went on to become immensely popular when a filing error landed the movie in the public domain for about 20 years. Because it was in the public domain TV stations began running “It’s a Wonderful Life” almost non-stop during the holidays. And because it is actually a great movie the film rose to iconic holiday classic status.

My entire childhood took place within the era Frank Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life” ran continuously on TV during the Christmas season.

I can often be heard telling a millennial, “Turn on the TV during December and ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ was playing.”

During this time George Bailey, the old Bailey Building and Loan, Uncle Billy, Zuzu and her petals, Clarence the angel and the miserly Mr. Potter as well as what they said and how they said it became embedded in the psyche of many Americans.

Needless to say I know the movie by heart and so do many others.

Landry takes the story and sets it in a Manhattan radio station 1947 broadcast, with radio jingles and live Foley sound effects to boot.

Directed by Players artistic director Gus Kaikkonen the production is full of veterans to the Players stage, Tom Frey, Bridget Beirne, Kraig Swartz and Leon Axt, along with Eleanor Pierson and Emily Allinson.

Frey takes on the part of George Bailey with aplomb. He is neither doing a straight-on Jimmy Stewart impersonation nor is he reinventing the part. You will hear an echo of Stewart, but Frey avoids mocking Stewart’s distinctive voice and speech pattern.

Beirne takes on multiple roles from George Bailey’s mother to his daughter Zuzu and is a delight to watch and listen to. As is Swartz who also takes on multiple roles from Mr. Martini to Clarence the angel.

Axt kills it while vacillating deftly between the radio show host to Uncle Billy and Mr. Potter as well as many other characters.

Pierson, who was a Players intern two summers ago, takes on the role of Mary Bailey and Allinson brings the sounds for the show to life as the radio station Foley artist.

The cast does a wonderful job bringing the tried and true story to life in the live radio show setting. And while the radio show aspects of the play are fun, at the heart of the show you have “It’s a Wonderful Life” with all the heart-warming holiday nostalgia as the original.

If you have a sentimental bone in your body the cast singing “Auld Lang Syne” will bring a tear to your eyes if not many.

Rated G, the production is a great show for the whole family. If you can, take a millennial to see this show.

“It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play” opened Thursday and runs through Sunday.

For show times and tickets go online to or call 924-7585. Subscriptions, six-ticket winter flex passes and single tickets are available.


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