By Sue Pascoe
On Thursday night, the Theatre Palisades Actors’ Troupe (TPAT) once again presented a live radio play timed to the holiday season. The actors and Foley crew, dressed in costume, recreated a 1946 radio show broadcast of “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
And, it was “Wonderful” night at the Pierson Playhouse, with a free performance for the community plus appetizers and mulled wine before and after the play. Two lucky people won gift certificates to The Yogurt Shoppe and two other people won season subscriptions to Theatre Palisades. And to top the evening off, Santa Claus made a surprise entrance at the conclusion of the performance.
The “Wonderful” night included three skilled Foley artists, Susan Stangl, Maria O’Connor and Michelle Nozzi. The cast of 14 actors were equally talented and were directed by Sherman Wayne.
The 1946 Christmas movie was produced by Frank Capra, based on a short story, “The Greatest Gift,” by Phillip Van Doren Stern, that examines the life of George Bailey.
Thisman(playedinthemoviebyJimmy Stewart) has given up a life of dreams to help others, and finally in desperation on Christmas Eve, considers suicide because he feels he’s been a failure.
His guardian angel, Clarence Odbody, travels to earth to show George all the lives he’s touched and how different the community of Bedford Falls would have been if he had never been born.
Initially, the movie performed poorly at the box office, but it has become one of the most critically acclaimed films ever made and was recognized by the American Film Institute as one of the 100 best American films ever made. Filmmaker Capra said it was his personal favorite and he screened it for his family every Christmas season. And like all good stories, this is one that is timeless.
I particularly enjoy the Foley artists who create the footsteps, the wind whistling, doors slamming, keys and phone calls and other sounds used in life broadcasts. Original sound effects people had to create all the sounds done for radio plays. The term Foley came from Jack Foley, who worked with Universal Studios in 1914, and was one of the people who turned “Showboat” into a talkie. He continued to create sounds for films until his death in 1967 and his basic methods are still used today.
The Theatre Palisades actors were also quite good, starting with Manfred Hofer as George Bailey. He gave the character depth, first speaking happily about his dreams and plans as a young man, and then suffering the anguish as the angel shows him what the town would look like if he had never been born.
Mary Bailey, as played by Wendy Taubin, was sweet and consistent. Greg Abbott as Mr. Potter has a fabulous voice and had just the right edge. Also showcasing a nice voice was Yvonne Robertson as Violet.
Andrew Frew, who has seen almost every Theatre Palisades production from the booth, was joined by Sherry Coon to do the show’s lighting.
This was a one-night opportunity—maybe next year, the TPAT will consider running its production over a weekend, because whatever they chose to do deserves a longer run.
TPAT was created in 2013 by members of Theatre Palisades who wanted additional opportunities to hone their craft. The troupe meets twice a month to do scene work, improvisation, devised works and acting exercises. It also invites guest teachers to lead workshops.
TPAT performs three times a year for Theatre Palisades membership events. Prospective new members are invited to email Martha Hunter at email@example.com.