‘Wonderful Life’ goes back to radio days in Gulfshore Playhouse by Harriet Heithaus

‘Wonderful Life’ goes back to radio days in Gulfshore Playhouse by Harriet Heithaus

“It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play” stokes a Yule log on the fire for Gulfshore Playhouse with a hearty crackle — a cellophane crackle, to be exact.

That artificial escort into an audial landscape drives this bundled tale taken from the feel-good Frank Capra holiday film. The Gulfshore Playhouse production has picked up Joe Landry’s 1996 re-interpretation of it as a radio play, with the actors taking multiple roles and creating the sound effects onstage: car horns, clanging bottles, footsteps in the snow, slamming doors.

The live radio audience for this broadcast is the audience at Norris Community Center. We get instructions from the announcer. We have applause signs timed to flash at appropriate times. There are comic visual-audial disconnects for us that director Peter Amster and his cast have richly mined: As one actor creates frantic footsteps in retreat, drumming shoes on a wood surface, the depicted character actually is sauntering away from the mic and up the steps.

For those who adore “It’s a Wonderful Life,” the radio-play overlay is frosting on a fruitcake. You will weep with Jeffrey Binder as George when he stands distraught at the bridge, ready to jump. You’ll beam at Keri Safran’s  6-year-old Zuzu voice proclaiming the sound of a bell means one of God’s angels has just earned wings.

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