It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play - UMD Theatre

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It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play
11/29/2012 performance reviewed by Sara Hughes


It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play was not the average theatergoer experience. It was a play within a radio station, satisfying the eyes and ears of the theater audience, and at the same time satisfying the ears of actual radio listeners. There was a lot for the director, Lee Gundersheimer to think about when producing an effective and successful show for both audiences.


In an effective live theater performance, it was important to give the viewer something to look at, and not only hear. The actors had to change their voices for their parts, as well as their appearance and body language. For instance, Alex Goebel, like many of the other actors and actresses, played more than one character. Often times two of his characters would be conversing together or contributing to a conversation and he would find himself switching character to character every line. To make it more effective for the audience, Goebel would put on a hat for one character, and then take it off for another. This acted as a way for Goebel to physically get into character for himself and the audience. As for the radio listeners, they could not see Goebel. They could have very well assumed it was two different actors conversing when in reality it was one. Goebel along with all of the other actors and actresses did a fantastic job at becoming their characters for the live audience and radio audience. Dan Marta and Joe Cramer specifically had the most versatile voice range. Marta played Clarence the Angel, Curtis Lorenzo and others, while Cramer played Theo Stockbridge as well as Mr. Potter and others. The actors’ abilities to portray the voices of multiple characters without sounding like cartoons were phenomenal. It was incredible to hear the vocal versatility out of just one person.


Costume design was another thing that made for an effective theater performance. The play was set in 1940 and everyone looked it. The characters were dressed in their most common character’s attire, but like mentioned before, Goebel used accessories to distinguish his characters in parallel with a voice change. Another way to distinguish the characters was through the actor’s stance, or how they held themselves. When Elizabeth Efteland played Rose Bailey, she assumed the posture of an old woman, held her shoulders high and slouched her back as well as squinted her eyes. Even though she was wearing the same dress as she did with her character Donna Compton, the audience was able to keep the characters separated, not to mention the drastic voice change. Efteland made clean transitions between characters and the audience was able to distinguish them without confusion.


The amount of skill required as an actor or actress to alter their voices and personalities on a dime is phenomenal. This type of performance must have been so different and challenging for the actors and actresses compared to an average performance of taking on just one character. An analogue of this performance style can be seen in The United States of Tara, a T.V. show about a woman with multiple personalities. The lead actress, Toni Collette, becomes a whole new character in an instant, just like the performers in It’s A Wonderful Life.


Overall, It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play was a fantastic UMD Theatre production. Lee Gundersheimer created a successful rendition for both the eye and the ear.

Justin Kostecka
November 28, 2012
It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play Review


The performance of It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play was fantastic and brought back sentimental memories of the original film version. Following the film, almost completely word for word, the production gave an interesting “live radio” twist on the story that made for an intriguing show. Some keys to the effectiveness of the play were the lighting, scene design, and costume design. Those factors, along with the acting, really helped to give life to the production.

The lighting for the play was designed by Christopher Gumpper. Overall, this design brought a lot to the production. It helped display things such as time and mood. During the day scenes, the stage was more brightly lit with some lighter colors. Night scenes were very nicely done with the lower portion of the background having some slightly lighter shades moving up to darker blues. One especially phenomenal part of the lighting design was in the use of light with the scrim. When lit in front during the in-between “off-air” parts of the show, it showed the green shaded walls of the radio studio. While lit from behind during day and night scenes, it showed a full background with the red and blue shades helping to provide the different moods and those times of day. The mixing of the greens, reds, and blues in the lighting, gave a full look, and were wonderfully put together as a lighting design.

The scene design, done by Erin Ohland, was great. The stage gave the audience a good idea of the setting, with old looking microphones and other props helping to set the production in the past. The radio studio look was met very well. The signs saying “Applause” and “On-Air” added to that look as well.

The costume design, done by Jenna Houck, really helped with the setting in which the production was in. Set in the 1940’s, the old-fashioned dresses and suits, along with the high-heels and wingtip shoes, genuinely displayed that old American look. These costumes were fantastic in what they brought to the show.

Lastly, the actors did a fine job portraying their many characters. For young, to middle aged, to old characters, the actors changed their voices and body language in the right ways to portray their character’s age and personality. It was fun to hear some of the young child voices that the actors were depicting, as well as some of their childish actions. In addition, it was interesting hearing certain voices such as Mr. Potter’s and George Bailey’s, and relating those voices to the film.

It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play was a great production of the classic film. It was an entertaining performance in many ways and it kept the audience laughing throughout. The lighting, scene design, costume design, and acting all came together nicely for this production by UMD Theatre.

It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play performed by UMD was simply sublime. The acting was sublime. The setting worked flawlessly with the storyline and what was needed to for the audience to make sense of everything that was going on. Set in a radio station, rather than in Bedford Falls as it usually is, this rendition of It’s a Wonderful Life added an interesting twist to this classic story.

Playing George Bailey (young and old) was the enthusiastic Paul LaNave. Always the man who was there for all of the people in his life, but never fulfilling his own dreams. LaNave portrayed his character with great skill. Emily Fletcher played Mary Hatch (young and old). She performed the small town sweetheart amazingly and had the audience rooting for her to win George Bailey’s love. The rest of the cast for this performance had an arduous task in front of them. Many of these actors/actresses played multiple characters, having to use different body posture and accents. Performed magnificently, each and every actor contributed to making the play a wondrous experience for the audience. Thomas Matthes did an excellent job with his multiple important roles. A few comments, however, on how he represented these characters. Freddie Filmore, the radio host/commentator, needed just a wee bit more enthusiasm/character in his voice. On real radio stations, the radio personality has just his/her voice to entertain the audience, no physical comedy in any form. Also, it was implied that Uncle Billy was an older gentleman, but was very hyper and excited through the whole performance. He was middle-aged when George Bailey was a boy and must have been well into his sixties if not seventies toward the end of the play. Uncle Billy seemed too youthful and spry for a man of his age.

At first, when an actor performed multiple voices for different characters the audience was slightly puzzled. It took some time to figure out how the director, Lee Gundersheimer, wanted these diverse characters to be portrayed. When one actor was going back and forth with himself (but two different characters) it got a little overwhelming, but still held true to being an authentic holiday radio play.

The stage designer and actors had a tricky situation to figure out. They needed to present a radio broadcast believably, as well as, capturing the audience’s attention through an actual onstage performance. The live band in the background worked impeccably well when needed and the stage was set up to accommodate these two difficult tasks. The actors were always at microphones, but placed strategically in groupings, so the audience had an easier time following the story.

The costumes for this production fit in very well with the 1940’s fashion. Each character was given their own distinctive wardrobe, along with something memorable to highlight their persona.

It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play was an outstanding performance that could not have been timed more appropriately. With Christmas right around the corner, this play reminded us all to be thankful for what we have, no matter the circumstances. This seasonal wonder is a must see for all in the Duluth area, especially for those in need of some holiday cheer.

The University of Minnesota Duluth theater department put on a unique performance at the Marshall Performing Arts Center. The performed the play It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play. The fact that this play was broadcasted live on the radio Friday night over the KUMD station presents a very unique production of It’s a Wonderful Life. This well known film that plays on TV every year around Christmas time, is very well known which, makes reproductions very difficult to do in a way that the audience enjoys. It is hard to live up to the performance given by the original George Bailey that we all know and love. However the unique radio station setting twist seemed to be intriguing to the audience.

As the audience was being ushered to their seats, the atmosphere within the theater transformed from a theater setting to a live radio broadcast room. The cast did a great job making the setting feel like an actual radio station. The host of the show Freddie Filmore drew the audience in from the moment he picked up the microphone. He had an attention grabbing “host” appearance, which got the play off to a good start.

The cast was great. They were a group of highly talented actors and actresses, each having a variety of accents for the different characters that they played throughout the performance. The costume and set designers all did good job as well. The way the character costumes and the set was designed really captured the time frame that the play took place in.

The UMD theater department put an interesting spin on the play. They began the play with the cast at the radio station discussing how this broadcast may be their last broadcast if they don’t find sponsors. This was clever because George Bailey’s predicament in the play It’s a Wonderful Life, is very similar to what the radio station facing. George Bailey in the play is on the verge of losing his business because his uncle Billy lost 8,000 dollars that belonged to the bank. George Bailey thinks that his company is going to go under and he won’t be able to save it. That is until all of the people that Bailey had helped with his business come together on Christmas Eve and donate money back to George as a way to thank him. The radio station is in the same situation. Unless they can find sponsors to donate enough money to keep the radio station above water, the radio station will have to shut down.

Having local Duluth sponsors call in during the play and donating to the radio station added a lot brought out a lot of emotion from the audience. The deeper into the George Bailey story the cast dove the more attached to the radio station and characters the audience seemed. As the more sponsored called in, the excitement of saving the radio station grew.

Overall seeing It’s a wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play is a great way to begin the Christmas season that is upon us. This show is great for the whole family, especially for the It’s, a Wonderful Life movie lovers!

Kaitlyn Hukriede
December 3, 2012
It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play Review

The University of Minnesota Duluth’s theatre department has done it again with this holiday seasons rendition of It’s a Wonderful Life based off the 1946 film directed by Frank Capra starring James Stewart, Donna Reed, and Lionel Barrymore, to name a few. Many avid movie buffs dub this story a classic, but the UMD theatre group has reached beyond those expectations and created a classic of their own.

Taking a theatrical spin on the well-known tale of self-discovery, the UMD group has actually enacted this play to be broadcasted live over the radio. As the actors and actresses performed on the stage in a 1940’s set at WDUL radio station, “The Voice of Duluth”, they spoke into old-fashioned microphones from the forties, which broadcasted their words live onto the real KUMD-FM local radio station of Duluth. Not only does this create a great convenience to theatregoers who are unable to see or afford the play, but this method also creates a unique theater experience for both those in the audience and those listeners at home. Under the direction of Lee Gundersheimer, as well as massive amounts of support from the rest of the theatre group at UMD, they helped to create a whole new outlook an a typically predictable performance.

Throughout the play the actors and actresses face the large challenge of playing multiple characters with only nine people involved, and shifting their voices in order to evoke different talking styles for each character to show differentiation in roles over the radio broadcast. This was incredible to see as an audience member. We get the convenience of visually their role changes, by body language or costume changes, but where the talent comes in is the language and speaking style used to switch between character roles. The actors would switch from an old lady speaking to a small, young child speaking. This is done to show how each character an actor plays is different but you can truly feel the immensity of this act when listening to the broadcast of the play live. As a radio listener, you would have no idea that two characters who are having a conversation are actually the same person shifting their voice. There was a lot of versatility that was used and is vital in order to portray the play in the fashion that the theatre group chose, through a live radio set up.

Another aspect of the performance that needs its recognition is the set design and lighting design. Both of these key parts helped create the exact right mood and timeframe of the storyline. The 1940’s style was spread throughout and the entire play had a somber feel to it as the radio show broadcasted live from the radio set, but also when scenes would switch to a darker night scene. The right amount of lighting, not too flashy, portrayed the calmer and “slower” way of life back in the day.

This version of the play was truly innovative and cleverly articulated. The group was successful in taking on the challenge of performing live in front of two groups of audiences…one set in the theatre, the other set someplace out in Duluth, listening to their radio sets, just like the typical trend during the 1940’s. This play is a must see, especially if you have seen the original film version. The performance creates a whole different scenario that not only keeps you on your toes, but defies all your prior expectations.

Sophia Carlson
December 3, 2012
It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play Review

The Marshall Performing Arts Center at the University of Minnesota Duluth held a new twist on the loved classic “It’s A Wonderful Life”. Only this time, it was a live radio performance. This reproduction had high expectations, and it definitely met them.
All of the aspects of this play added together made for a great performance. The lighting, by Christopher Gumpper, did a phenomenal job at portraying the time of day and the mood. Using the scrim, the scenes easily transitioned from night, to day, and to the radio station. The scene design, by Erin Ohland, really set the time period in an effective way. The use of old microphones and headsets made it obvious that it was around the 1940’s. The costume design, by Jenna Houck, also contributed to the time period. The clothing and and shoes made the audience feel as if it really was the 1940’s.
The actors went above and beyond their expectations in this production. There were only 9 actors, and they all played several different voices. The transition from voice to voice was incredible. The actors changed their accents and style of talking very well. The voices would switch from an adult to a child almost seamlessly. This made the play even more enjoyable.
This production did a great job of re-making the classic “It’s A Wonderful Life” starring loved George Bailey. In this reproduction, the radio station was even going through a similar challenge. They needed sponsors or else they would go out of business. This relates to when George Bailey needed to raise 8,000 dollars or else his business would fail. Luckily, everyone gets together on /Christmas-eve and helps out to raise the money just like people called in to donate money in this live radio production.
Overall, “It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play Production” was a success. It kept the audience laughing and yet, it was still full of sentimental moments that really kept the audience engaged in the performance. This is a play worth seeing.

UMD did a great job producing It’s a Wonderful Life. Seeing a play that was set in a live radio station was actually a cool experience. It would be cool to also listen to the play live on the radio and experience that version. Lee Gundersheimer had his hand full with trying to appeal this play to both the viewers and the listeners.

The lighting really brought the play to life. Anyone that doesn't see many plays can tell when and what is going on because of the lighting. Christopher Gumpper, the lighting designer did a great job setting the mood of the play. When it was lit up the audience knew it was the day time. When the audience saw the darker blue it was obvious it was night time. The scrim being lit with different colors made a big difference in the awareness of the audience for the time of day.

The cast was great. Paul LaNave playing George Bailey was the reliable, trustworthy friend who always thought of others before himself. Mary Hatch was played by Emily Fletcher, being such the sweetheart she was everyone wanted Mary to win George's heart. For the rest of the cast that had multiple roles to play, they did a great job. At first it was hard to catch on to seeing the same person in multiple roles but after realizing the play got better.

The costume designer did a great job setting these costumes in the 1940's. That old fashioned look was perfect with the dresses and suits chosen for the actors/actresses to wear. It is amazing the effect these costumes had, immediately the audience knows this is an old fashioned play.

How the actors were able to change their personalities, voices, etc to the other roles they had to play was great. Some of the childish voices and actions they showed brought back memories of Black Patent Leather Shoes. It was hilarious to see and hear these adults pretend to be a child.

It's a Wonderful Life is a must see performance. There is still one more weekend to attend and if you are debating stop and go see it, or listen to it. The humor in this show is one of a kind and the audience will be laughing throughout the entire show like this past weekend.

It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play, performed by the University of Minnesota Duluth theatre production was a unique spin on a well-known holiday story. The UMD rendition of the tale was different yet satisfying to the audience. The play was held in the Marshall Performing Arts Center which gave it a very intimate feeling which was perfect being it was a holiday story.

The play, It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play, depicts to the audience the true meaning and importance of one’s existence. When George is on the verge of suicide Clarence, George’s guardian angel, shows George what life would have been like for those he loves if he was never born. While he is showing this to George it also displays to the audience the value of their own individual life and gives self-worth.

The playscript supported the director’s approach to the material very well. It was a unique version of It’s a Wonderful Life, however, because this rendering of the play was actually titled, It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play; the audience could expect to see something different than the usual tale of It’s a Wonderful Life. The radio play aspect of the performance was really the part that set it apart from any other performance of the show. It was the unique aspect and was done particularly well by the University of Minnesota Duluth theatre production.

Like usual the actors did exceptionally well depicting their specific roles. What was especially impressive of this version of the show was that the production was done by a few characters. Each character played an average of five different roles. These roles were differentiated by different voices the actors would use, which they did remarkably well. It was extremely impressive to watch as each character transformed into a different one. Although they would keep the overall same costume, (with the exception of changing minor accessories) audience members had no trouble differentiating the different characters. It was amazing to watch the characters bridge an age gap of many years simply by changing their voices. That takes a lot of talent and time to perfect and the UMD theatre crew did it very well and seemingly easy.

The scene of the play was very cluttered. It was often times hard to focus on the acting because of the miscellaneous cords running every which way. The scenery was good at showing the time period as well as the location if the audience could get past all the clutter. The costumes were very versatile and allowed the actors to quickly and simply switch into their various roles virtually immediately when needed. They also were very well designed to fit the decade of the play. At the beginning of the play the lights weren't turned down all the way and it was confusing as to when the play was actually going to begin. The lighting crew might was to reexamine when exactly they want to begin to dim the lights or make sure that the audience is clear that the show is beginning.

It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play overall was a very good play and it was worth attending. It was a great was to get in the holiday spirit and of course support UMD theatre productions. Once again, like usual, another hats off to this UMD performance.

It's A Wonderful Life was a fun and well done performance. Everything was working for this production. This play had two stories meshed together creating a fun and entertaining premise. The characters are actors performing a live radio performance of It's A Wonderful Life at fictional WDUL.

All of the elements for this play were in sync and done very nicely.

The setting of 1940's radio station WDUL was really believable. Freddie Filmore (Thomas Matthes) is the host for the show. Freddie gets the story rolling with some introductions of the actors and giving cues for music from the background band Tiny Booker and the Superior Syncopters. With the music and design, WDUL comes to life.

The main story here is It's A Wonderful Life. The story revolves around George Bailey, who at the start of the play is contemplating killing himself. We then see George's whole life through Clarence the Angel. George grows up giving and helping others. Once he is an adult he gets his father's business, marries Mary Hatch, and has to deal with money and power hungry Mr. Potter. George ends up in debt and is about to commit suicide. Clarence stops George and shows how his life would be if he was never born.

Balance between the two different stories was done with care. Most of the attention and time was on the main story, without losing the side story in the process. A couple of times the main story would end a scene and Freddie would come on with a new sponsor, and some music. This created a nice break for the cast and the audience.

The cast did a phenomenal job performing multiple characters. Paul LaNave did a fine job as George Bailey. LaNave made George look troubled and created sympathy for his character. His wife in the story was played by Emily Fletcher. Fletcher had her character of Mary coming off as sweet and caring. The character of Mary had a smaller role than others. It would have been interesting to see how Fletcher would have done with a larger role. Dan Marta had a stellar performance as Clarence the Angel. Thomas Matthes' portrayal of WDUL host Freddie Filmore was fantastic. The character of Freddie Filmore was very convincing to what a 1940's radio host would be. Agnieszka Oszast had multiple roles. Oszast played an old secretary for George's business and also played his young daughter. Her performance of multiple characters with very different ages was fantastic. Overall a great cast and some great performances.

Another key part in this production was the design. The set needed to look like a true 1940's throwback radio station. Erin Ohland created a nice set with the color and layout working together. All the space needed for the actors to move about was there. Christopher Gumpper was the man behind the light design. Transitions betweens indoor and outdoor scenes in the main story were perfect. The night scenes with George and Mary had a nice night glow to them. Awesome lighting.

Director Lee Gundersheimer synced all of these elements together and created a nice holiday themed production. Everyone who worked on this production should take a pat on the back. Nearly flawless and a fantastic production of It's A Wonderful Life.


It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play - UMD Theatre Review
December 3, 2012

UMD’s production of It’s a Wonderful Life by Joe Landry opened November 30, 2012 at the Marshall Performing Arts Center. Carrying the same storyline, this theatrical performance took a different direction than performing Frank Capra’s classic movie. Lee Gundersheimer produced a phenomenal and heart warming It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play on Frank Capra’s movie “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

It’s a Wonderful Life took on a Theatrical Perspective. The play script supported the director’s approach to the material very well. This was done by twisting the type of production without changing the story. Instead of a typical performance of the Frank Capra’s movie, this performance was performed as a radio show. The director did a believable job in creating a production of a radio show and also a theatre production for us viewers. The director's approach to the script as a radio show was performed very well.

Lee Gundersheimer does a marvelous and believable job at creating a radio show that also portrays a believable story for the audience. The playwright tells the story of George Bailey, a selfless man who finds himself in despair. George Bailey is the guy who saved his brother from drowning, stopped his pharmacist employer from accidentally poisoning a kid, put on hold his dreams of being a traveler to help out with his father’s business Bailey and Loans and worked for his brother while his he was away at school. George Bailey is in such distress on the night of Christmas Eve with everything with work going wrong and all the stress that has built up over the years; he comes to the conclusion of taking his life. At this time, an angel is sent to show him how much better Bedford Falls and all his family and friends are because of his life.

This radio show performance required the actors to play more than one role. Many actors played their roles very well, but there are a couple that I thought really did a believable representation. I cannot begin express how impressive these actors are at representing many different characters back to back and making them believable. Agneska Oszast does a marvelous job creating each particular personality in every character like Lana Sherwood, Violet, and others. Joe Cramer’s characters are very different and believable as he plays a little toddler, Theo Stockbridge, and an old, grumpy Mr. Potter. LaNave does a marvelous job creating a believable George Bailey both from childhood to adulthood.

Scene director, Erin Ohland creates a busy and cheerful, 1940s set. Ohlands creation of a 1940’s studio of WDUL, “The Voice of Duluth,” couldn’t have been more believable. I was amazed by the perfection in the stage and how perfectly the characters were set up in relation to each other and creating a theatrical production while creating a radio show at the same time.

Because this is a production is a radio show, these actors have to be broadcast actors. This was done very well in my opinion. The actors brought their own creativeness to the play with their voice changes, props, body gestures and costume changes.

After all this is said, I would highly recommend attending It’s a Wonderful Life. I guarantee you will leave will laughs and feeling bright with the wonderful joy of Christmas.

Live radio plays have become very uncommon in this day of age. Some might think the idea of a live radio play to be boring. UMDs production of It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play was the complete opposite of boring. It was delightfully entertaining! Director Lee Gundersheimer definitely delivered a Christmas gem.

Every aspect of a live radio play was captured very well. Before the performance began it was impressive to see how the actors and actresses milled about the set as if they were waiting to begin a real live radio broadcast. The set was very well put together and fit the 1940s time frame. There were old microphones, applause signs, the small musical ensemble Tiny Booker and the Superior Syncopators (Adam Booker, Cooper Crose, Matthew Groom, and Cathleen Meyer), a Foley Artist (Becca Charpentier), and the vocal musical trio The Jingle Belles (Georgia Mae Bell, Glee Schultz, Jennifer Waweru). The characters costumes were all classy and festive.

Lead role Paul LaNave played an excellent George Bailey. It was interesting to watch the character grow from a small boy to a man with a family. LaNave was very good at portraying all of George Bailey’s emotions. It was heartwarming to watch George as he confessed his love to Mary Hatch (Emily Fletcher), and extremely emotional when he realized how wonderful his life really was after Clarence the Angel (Dan Marta) took away George’s existence.

It was very impressive watching many of the actors go from performing one character to performing a completely different character. One moment Joe Crammer had the small squeaky voice of a child and the next he had the booming voice of Mr. Potter. Agnieszka Oszast did a wonderful job performing the roles of the George Bailey’s daughters and also Annie. They all did an excellent job changing their voices to fit the parts and also changing up their mannerisms. It seemed that for every time an actor did a role shift they would alternate a prop, such as glasses, a hat, or a cardigan. For each character an actor played they had a distinct prop that made the character more believable. They also would change their postures to fit the roles better. If the character was older they would hunch their shoulders, and if they were a young teenager they would stand tall and proud.

What was most impressive was Becca Charpentier in her role as the Foley Artist. The sounds she created from her little station made the production even more realistic and fun. She was always there for doors opening, bottles clinking, walking feet, splashes, jingles, glass breaking, and so much more.

This production of It’s A Wonderful Life was performed beautifully. Seeing it as a live radio play was something new and exciting. This story is always a great reminder that everyone needs to appreciate their lives and everyone they share their lives with. Christmas time is the perfect time to give more and show how much we care about friends and family. This production is recommended to anyone looking for some fun and heartwarming holiday entertainment.

Cassie Gazzolo's Review on It's A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play 11/28

UMD theatre presented It's A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play by Joe Landry, Thursday the 29th in the Marshall Performing Arts Center. The dress rehearsal took place on Wednesday night before the opening of the show.

It's A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play was the same storyline as in Frank Capra's movie. The performance was almost exactly like the movie and the “live radio” gave it a different spin to the stereotypical theatre performance. At the dress rehearsal it was difficult to tell when the play was actually starting because all the actors were in character on stage, just talking amongst themselves.

The lighting for the performance was designed by Christopher Gumpper. Gumpper did an overall great job which brought a lot of attention to the production. It helped create various emotions throughout the performance. The stage would be brightly lit with some accent colors during the day and at night the stage would be dimmer. Gumpper also used a scrim in the performance on the background wall. A scrim is a thin, open-weave fabric which is nearly transparent when lit from behind and opaque when lit from the front.

The costume designer, Jenna Houck helped set the 1940s period. The characters were dressed in 1940s styled dresses and suits with shoes to match. Although the actors didn't have more than one costume during the performance they used other distinguishing features to show their different roles. Actor Alex Goebel, used accessories to distinguish his different characters. Elizabeth Efleland, used different postures to show her different characters.

Erin Ohland created a scenic design for the performance. She created a 1940s radio studio WDUL, “The Voice of Duluth.” The stage had a bunch of 1940s microphones, old carpets and a Christmas tree because it was Christmas Eve. The performance even had “applause” and “on-air” signs to create a studio like atmosphere.

From young children, middle aged teenagers and adults, to elders; the student actors portrayed many characters during the performance that were done very well. The actors changed their voices for each character and each character had their own body language. Even some of the accents that the actors did weren't that bad. The voices the actors did were like the original voices in the movie of It's A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play. This style of play was so different from other performances that UMD Theatre has put on, it must have been difficult for all the actors as well. There required a lot of skill from the actors with their different characters they needed to portray with the different voices and personalities.

It's A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play was a production of a classic film with a modern twist. It was entertaining and kept the audience laughing throughout the performance. The lighting, costume design, scenic design, and acting all tied into creating a performance worth seeing by UMD Theatre.

Katie Hood
It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play – UMD Theatre Review

George Bailey really was a wonderful person and indeed had “a wonderful life”. Audiences at the UMD main stage performance of It’s a Wonderful Life would agree that the values and compassion displayed by this character encourage us all to reflect on our own lives and be gracious for our similarities to George Bailey. Although many may agree they have little to no experience with a live radio play, director Lee Gundersheimer was able to execute the radio play effectively.

Without the performance of Foley artist, Becca Charpentier, none of the play’s actions would have made any sense. Charpentier alluded sounds that many of us would forget are even important to a radio show such as a rolling wind apparatus or the combination of a bell and door opening/closing. Her multitasking onstage was also a treat that most audiences may never get the chance to appreciate in other theater performances. The placement of Charpentier onstage was also a brilliant and exciting feature to be a part of.

With many sound effects also came many voices for each actor portraying many different characters, sometimes changing voices to ultimately look as though they were having a conversation with themselves. A few of the most eclectic actors were Agnieszka Oszast, voicing Zuzu, Violet, Lana and others; Elizabeth Efteland, voicing Donna Compton, Rose Bailey, and others; Thomas Matthes, voicing Freddie Filmore, Uncle Billy and others; and most of all, Joe Cramer, voicing Theo Stockbridge, Mr. Potter and others. Cramer was one of the most entertaining actors to watch and hear as he changed characters. The use of the wheelchair for Mr. Potter and Cramer’s many stances for young children characters all allowed him to take shape into a new character both visually and audibly.

Dan Marta was another especially great actor to watch onstage as Clarence the Angel and many others. One aspect that Marta took above and beyond was the use of Clarence the Angel as he moved around stage and gave his interpretation of a silly Angel doing anything to earn his pair of wings. As Marta changed characters to an old man, his body also shifted to a stance of an old man; not necessary for a radio broadcast, but most definitely entertaining to see as the audience.

Of course, a radio show would be nothing without music and songs; however, the music was dull and uninteresting as was the performance by The Jingle Belles. Tiny Booker and the Superior Syncopators seemed as though they had great chemistry and they had been on WDUL Radio Station for years. However, their placement onstage was mediocre, as well as their musical performance. The Jingle Belles were dressed nicely and looked excited, but their voices did not portray the same effect and had disappointingly little to no harmonic aspects. With a bit of harmony added, The Jingle Belles would add dimension to their performance, drawing in the audience and potentially more sponsors.

The highlight of the entire show was surprisingly, the curtain call. Most every other play performance one may go to, the curtain call is nothing more than bows and a line of actors. However, with so few actors portraying a stupendous amount of characters, each actor gave a snippet of each character’s voice! This was amazing to watch and appreciate how much time and effort must have went in to be sure that each character was given thought and care as to graciously be portrayed in every performance.

Radio from the 1940s is very distinct—large microphones, funny nasally voices, and spunky radio personalities. UMD’s theater department recreated exactly that in the production of It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play.
“A live radio play?” one might think skeptically. “Wouldn’t that simply consist of a bunch of people standing around on stage… talking? How boring!” But have no reservations. The actors are positioned at their microphones throughout the performance, but there is still very much to watch. Each actor plays an actor playing several other characters— everyone is constantly moving about and interacting with each other in new, exciting ways. One scene in particular featured actor Alex Goebel basically carrying on a scene himself as two separate characters. The hilarity of the situation would only be apparent when in the audience—on the radio broadcast I’m sure no one had a clue!
This is only one example of the stunning voice talents demonstrated throughout this show. Nearly every actor was responsible for a handful of characters—and correspondingly different voices. The role call at the end of the performance was especially impressive. Yes—even the role call lacked the typical that-was-really-good-but-can-we-be-done-now feeling! The production very creatively had each real life actor call off the names of their various characters in the corresponding voices. It was very cool and very impressive. The audience was left in a state of awe as the house lights came back up.
Another reason that the radio broadcast was worth seeing, and not just hearing, was to get a true appreciation for the live sound effects. Right on stage, an elaborate assortment of odd knick-knacks organized in a circular pattern off to the side. In the middle sat a very dedicated individual (whose name was not obvious on my program!) who attentively followed each and every turn of the show—slamming doors, ringing bells, breaking glass… well not really breaking glass, but it certain sounded like it. It was all very convincing.
The musicians were all featured prominently on stage as well, and were actually part of the radio station banter in the program. It was a fun change from your average play. Tiny Booker and the Superior Syncopators (made up of Adam Booker, Cooper Crose, Matthew Groom, and Kathleen Meyer) produced some fine tunes that were very telling of the era. Sometimes their music was accompanied by the crooning vocals of the Jingle Bells—to varying levels of success. The jingle-esque nature of their short songs was very era relevant, but several of their songs had serious pitch issues. It was the final dress rehearsal though, so let’s hope they got it together for opening night!
Overall, this production left the audience feeling relieved and content. The Holiday spirit resonated strongly throughout the play, bringing fourth the desire to wander through Bentleyville, indulge in hot cocoa, and warm up near a fire. Often times the Christmas spirit is easy to loose when bombarded by the stress of the end of the semester, so I strongly encourage everyone to take a break and indulge in this charming production.

The UMD theatre performed It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play. This play was based off the 1946 film directed by Frank Capra. It was no everyday play that anybody is used to seeing. Everything happened on stage to see rather than behind the set. People changed from different characters on stage rather than going behind stage and changing. Everyone stayed in the same outfit the entire time, some just added accessories to a character to be able to tell the difference between two. The music was on stage rather than hiding some place you couldn’t see. It was certainly a unique way of a play.
The stage set of the play was created by Erin Ohland. She did an idea job of planning this one out. The play looked a great deal like a 1940’s kind of scene. It was set up to be like inside of a radio station, WDUL Radio Station for this particular event. There were old looking microphones that were used for the actors/actresses to speak into rather than having a body mike like many most plays. For more of a radio station feel there was an “on-air” and “applause” sign that would light up telling us when they were on-air or telling the audience when to applause. For a Christmas touch to the set, since the time was set as Christmas Eve, there was a Christmas tree and lights around the stage for a Christmas feel. They also had a point where snow fell down on the stage in the back. That was a really neat thing to add to the production. One thing that really didn’t make the set was the background of the stage with the house and bridge on it. It didn’t seem like it brought anything more to the play at those parts when each one was lit up.
The actors in the play were delightfully amazing at each and every one of their roles. Each character had different roles that they played. Their transitions to each of their characters were short and phenomenal. One person who definitely stood out with her transitions was actress Elizabeth Efteland, who played Donna Compton, Rose Bailey and others. Changing her voices and body posture was very flawless; as well as Joe Cramer’s characters. His ability to change from an old man Mr. Potter to George Bailey’s little boy was outstanding. The voice of that little boy was a good hoot as well. The cast member Becca Charpentier was a great addition to the production of the play. All the sound effects she did were good and on time with the characters actions. It was cool to be able to see her make the sound effects on stage rather than other plays you may see where you just hear the noise that is made and wonder about how it happened.
The costume design was another effective thing to add. Though it was simple with the characters not having to change outfits, the ones they wore the entire play went well. They resembled what men and women wore in the early-mid 1900’s. The ladies were wearing their old-fashion dresses, the men wearing older looking suits, and both with their high tip looking shoes.
How the play ended was a good change than to everyday plays. Instead of all bowing together, each individual went up and said the different characters they were including the voices and body language they used when portraying those characters.
This performance was an excellent one to see. It brought a change to seeing this rather than expecting a play how they normally all are set up and played out. It was a great performance that kept the audience engaged and entertained.

The performance It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play, was a a unique way to present George Bailey’s story. The combination of radio broadcasting mixed with the realistic timeline of George’s life was intriguing the the viewer. Each element brought into the production was cohesive and surprisingly balanced very well off each other.

The playwright was trying to achieve a unique perception within the production by having one actor take on various different character roles (excluding the actors Paul LaNave who played old and young George Bailey & Emily Fletcher who played old and young Mary Hatch). The variety of tones of voice, body postures, and actions or movements made each of the new (or returning) characters apparent to the audience. The actors achieved in making this combination of characters believable even though the audience knew it was the same person just from view. The personalities between all the characters was persistent as well, and the viewer could relate to the people in the story.

The use of manual sounds presented in the production also made the performance stand apart from the typical theatre stereotype in a way which such realism was portrayed within the sounds correlating with the scenes. The foley artist, Leah Dylan, was on key with every act and created such a variety of noises that was almost humorous to the audience in the the way it was presented. It was interesting to see what types of props were used for the weather as well. The scenes that included wind or storm noises were creative, and gave the audience a real perception of the weather influence in the storyline.

Standing and talking into the mic was the directors way of presenting this storyline in a radio station setting. However, at some points the actors seemed at though they had a lot more movement that they wanted to apply to their emotion, but the constraint to the microphone was holding them back. It didn’t necessarily create a positive nor a negative experience within the production, but simply an observation of the effect on the bold personalities within the characters. It did create a unique experience for the audience, and perhaps the restricting limits of the actors movements did create more of a dynamic atmosphere.

The use of the scrim really benefited the production as well, and the slight interpretation the audience got of the old house or snowy weather was brief, but effective. It gave the viewers and additional thing to look at to help envision the story being told, and built a better connection between the plot and audience.

It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play, is a treat to attend. The abnormality of the setup, use of space, sounds, and multiples of characters for one actor is something that often isn’t portrayed in theatre. Each unique element brought into the production served a large purpose, and without each quirky detail the experience wouldn’t have been the same.

It's A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play
UMD Marshall Center
12/05/12
Review by Janelle Kloth

It's a Wonderful Life, not only is it that but it was a wonderful play. Set in the 1940's and based off the movie this radio show redefined ordinary theatre. By combining the natural elements of radio with acting on stage for the audience the show really gave you that warm fuzzy feeling that all Christmas themed performances do.

We follow a small cast of about 9 people but in reality there are probably about 23 characters. Each cast member does more than one character and very well at that. Poor George Bailey has just never seemed to get anything right. His whole life he has constantly been worried and scammed, the only good thing he can think of is he found the love of his life Mary Hatch. George runs into his guardian angel Clarence and then things really start to twist. The overall story line of the play is a classic so in turn the cast had big shoes to fill. The good news is they did it expertly keeping the audience interested and in light spirits.

Another fabulous edition to this play was the set. Now it wasn't a very difficult set to build but it had the real feeling of being in a radio station. They had the old fashion mics which worked a live band and one of the most fascinating things a percussionist who had the oddest materials to use for sounds effects. One of the best parts was that at the end they even had snow falling from the ceiling giving it that natural Christmas spirit. The last little detail was the backdrop which only had about three different images but made all the difference when figuring out where we were in the story.

Overall each cast member did a terrific job at changing characters quickly and smoothly. There were no problems or issues that stuck out which is a huge success. In the end George does find out what a wonderful life he had, and makes us as an audience think our lives really aren't so bad either. Merry Christmas!!

It’s a Wonderful Life
12/6/2012
Joshua Biles

A radio play, within a play, what a crazy idea. How boring could that be? How could that be interesting? These may be questions that crossed somebody’s mind when hearing about It’s a Wonderful Life A Live Radio Play.
This show was none of the above. The audience was engaged throughout even though it was a different style than other plays, and there are multiple reasons.
A first interesting aspect of this play was the setting. Set in a late 1940s radio station, the costumes, and props set it up perfectly, from the brown and striped suits, to the type of microphone, the set felt like midcentury America. This was a big part of setting up the play, and the costume and set designers accomplished their goal.
The idea of a play within a play brings forth an interesting concept. The actors/actresses portrayed voice actors/actresses within the play. Each voice actor/actress in the play portrayed multiple voices within the radio play, which means they all had to use multiple, distinct voices. All of the actors/actresses made quality and interesting audible distinction between characters. These distinctions are what made the story interesting. The most obvious crowd pleaser was Alex Goebel as the baby, which was one of the few times that everyone in the crowd laughed together. Another notable performance was Dan Marta as Clarence the Angel and as Old Man Collins, whom the crowd loved. The contrast that the voice actors show really made the show interesting.
The moral of the story is that even though someone may think their life is bad, and want to call it quits, they are worth something, and have made an impact on other’s lives. The production made this clear, and even though the actors didn’t act everything out, the audience was able to use their imaginations. This was a very interesting aspect of this play. Though the audience can see actors on stage the story that is being told is not being acted out completely. Yes, the voice actors would put on a hat and make gestures, but it was not acted out as if the story being told was the main story, but the story of WDUL was what was being performed. Even though they weren’t acting everything out, the audience is still able to come away with images in their minds about It’s a Wonderful Life, much like if one had just read a book about it.
It’s a Wonderful Life A Live Radio Play was a unique show, with both acting, storytelling, and music. It was an enjoyable evening and definitely worth the price of a ticket, and more, to experience, and maybe it will even persuade someone in the audience that even though life seems pretty down, or that they are insignificant, that they have influenced the lives of many around them.

Dan Jackson
December 7, 2012
It’s a Wonderful Life: A Life Radio Play Review

The Marshall Performing Arts Center at the University of Minnesota Duluth performed a classic, “It’s A Wonderful Life”, but it was a live radio performance. It was very interested to see what goes on during a live radio show because they were very popular in the past before television came around. The production was a success, with great lighting and sound.

Starting off with an artistic perspective, the actors were believable characters. The costumes they wore were very similar to what men and women in the late 1940’s would wear. Because this play was a live radio production, it was imperative that the actors use their voices well. They were put in a tough position because they had to act out more than one person. They did a phenomenal job changing what their voices sounded like throughout the performance to match the different characters they played. Also, their posture’s fit whom they were playing. A perfect example is the actor that was playing the older character would walk hunched over like elderly people do. One thing the actors could have done better was facing the microphone. There were times where their voice could not be heard through the Marshall Performing Arts Center.

Next, the scenic design of It’s A Wonderful Life was fantastic. The set resembled the set of a late show with Jay Leno because of the band that was in the corner. All the actors were spaced out evenly throughout the stage, so they were able to move around at will. Personally, the “applause” sign was a great touch. It definitely made the set have a more realistic feel to it because they are still used today. It notified the audience that it was okay for them to actually applause, which made it seem like there was a live radio production going on. The lighting design fit the time period of the play. There was nothing high tech about it, and helped portray what time of day it was. When it was daytime, it would be brighter in the theater, and when the play shifted to night, the lights would dim.

Something that stood out was the motivated and environmental sound throughout the production. The girl sitting at desk was in charge adding those sounds to make it more realistic. From the telephone ringing, to the doors slamming, it helped explain what was happening during the play. The audience would have been able to close their eyes and still follow along with the play because of all the familiar sounds that were being added.

The director of It’s A Wonderful Life, Lee Gundersheimer, was attempting to bring to life a live radio production for the audience to see what it was like back then. Gundersheimer succeeded with this performance with help from his lighting and sound directors, and his great cast. This play was definitely worth attempting and is a must see for people around the Duluth area.

It’s A Wonderful Life directed by Lee Gundersheimer is a Christmas must see. Gundersheimer directed a play that can turn any Grinch into having the Christmas spirit. It’s a Wonderful Life was a very unique play that is not done in a lot of theaters. The cool thing about the play, which makes the play unique, is Gundersheimer had the play aired live on the University radio station KUMD 103.3FM while it was being performed. The audience participated in the play as well because there were signs posted above the stage telling the audience to applaud when they were flashing. This brought an element to the play which the audience felt they contributed to the play and just didn’t sit there. Gundersheimer did something that must have been hard to anticipate which was tying the radio show into a play and transition it well. Going back and forth between transitions made the show flow, without having too much lag time between the acts.

The acting was pretty minimal because the dialogue was more important since it was a radio show, and the acting took more of a back seat. The dialogue made the audience think more about the words being said and the content of a situation rather than what’s going on the stage. The actors played a couple roles throughout the play. The role changes were hard at first to pick up, but over time they were easier to distinguish between the characters in the play. The actors wouldn’t change costumes; they would change their body language, tone of voice or maybe put on clothing accessories to tell the audience that the actor changed characters. This brought an element into the play that was different from most plays. The people listening on the radio couldn’t see the change, but for the people who attended the play they could relate to the characters and start to understand the characters, by putting the words to a face. This way the audience could start to relate to the characters or the plot of the play and start to build an understanding.

Paul LaNave played Jake Laurents for the radio part of the show but also played George Bailey and Young George in the play part of It’s A Wonderful Life. Lanave was one of the lucky actors since he only had three roles to keep track of, and they were the same character. LaNave’s character George Bailey was the character that embraced the central theme of the play. George went throughout his life giving of himself, helping others, and always doing the right thing. In the end George was pushed to the limit and when he needed help the most, the people who he took care of in the past came through for him in his struggle. That just shows when people give themselves and help others, good things happen to those people. Another theme George embraced was never giving up. Even when he was going to lose his business he bites his lower lip and just kept going. Sometimes in life one has to just keep moving, and George kept moving and got through the hard times.

It’s a Wonderful Life does a great job of getting one in the Christmas spirit and is a must see of the holidays.

Kaitlyn Knutson
Theatre Review
It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play

Today live radio plays are not as common as they use to be to go and see. Going to see this play was very different than regular plays performed. UMD's theatre did a great job at making this play actually feel like it was a radio play and not just a regular play performed on stage. It was a good different because the theatre was able to make it actually portray that it was a radio play on UMD's Marshall Performing Arts stage.

The play was about George Bailey trying to always please others before himself. He always wanted to help others and make things better for other people and help them out anyway he could. Sometimes that even meant him giving up his dream of going off to school. He always tried to make ends meet. Eventually he gets too stressed out and gets tired of everyone and everything that he wants to commit suicide. At the last second Clarence the Angel stops him and shows George what the world would be like if he wouldn't have been there. He realizes how important he is and how much he helped out others to be better that he rethinks about himself committing suicide and decides to go back to his family.

The actors did an outstanding job in portraying their characters. Many of the actors had multiple characters throughout the play and they all did a brilliant job at keeping them all distinct with their different voices and accents for each different character. The actors were in the same outfit throughout the entire play with all of the characters so at first it was kind of difficult to distinguish all the different characters but the change in voices made it easier to distinct them throughout the play.

The stage was set up very well for no matter where the audience sat in the auditorium everyone was able to see everything. There were no scene changes throughout the play because everything was already all on the stage from beginning to end. Sometimes that made it confusing if everything on stage was needed because some of it wasn't used until they very end of the play such as the Christmas tree since the family doesn't celebrate it till the end. It was very interesting that the people providing the music was on stage instead of being hidden such as beneath the stage. All the background noises were made on stage as well which was sometimes distracting but still very different and cool.

The lighting on stage for the play was basically always covering the whole entire stage throughout the entire play. To show the Christmas lights on houses for the play they were had the houses outlined on the back wall of the stage with lights outlining the houses. It was very unlike other plays where there are little built houses on the stage with lights on them. The lighting was different when it showed the angels talking to show that they were in a different world and place.

Overall, It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play is a great play to go and watch to start off the Christmas season. It helps make you see what is important in your life and the sacrifices you should make for your family and friends.

Jordan Kranick
It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play
Theater Review

UMD’s It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play offers a theatrical experience beyond the traditional performance. The unique incorporation of a live radio play grabs the attention of the viewers from start to finish. Without such believable characters and a relatable social perspective, the performance wouldn’t have been nearly as successful.

Focusing more specifically on the actors, it must have been difficult to keep the voices of each character consistent. If it was, the audience was fooled. Alex Goebel, Dan Marta, and Agnieszka Oszast were a few performances that really stood out. Whether it was Harry Bailey, Henry “Jazzbo” Heywood, or Bert the cop, Goebel had an authoritative presence on stage. All of his characters, besides the baby, used a deeper voice technique that grabbed the audience's attention. In comparison to the other characters, Goebel also had a convincing accent. Marta, on the other hand, incorporated gestures into his characters that helped portray who they were. One example of this is Charlie, the old man who needed money. Whenever his character was present, Marta would hunch over, stir back and forth, and stretch out his hand as if he were using a cane. In addition to his scratchy and weathered voice, the audience’s reaction to his performance was always positive. Oszast, as Violet and the receptionist for “Bailey Building and Loans,” had a unique voice that set her apart from the other actors. Especially while playing the receptionist, Oszast used a “nasally” technique that was too interesting for the audience to be distracted by anything else happening on stage. One reason the characters were so successful might have been because the audience had to rely only on the voices and minimal props to understand what was happening throughout the play. They were believable because, since it was a radio play, that’s all they knew.

Transitioning into the social perspective, It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play offered insight into a relatable social issue of today. In today’s society, people often take for granted what they have and instead, an unnecessary amount of time and energy is wasted on figuring out what they don’t have. This related specifically to the play because George Bailey spent a majority of his life thinking about what his life could have been if he would have traveled the world. He didn’t realize that he had just as rich of life in the small town of Bedford Falls, and forgot that being a genuine person was far more respectable than having a generous bank account. Upon Bailey’s return to his present life, he was overwhelmed by the love and effort his friends and family put into gathering the money he owed. Since the amount of money on a paycheck has become more important than how it was made, the moral of the play reminded the audience that life is more “wonderful” when things that can’t be bought are cherished—like people.

Overall, each character was executed through a voice that could easily be differentiated and was convincing to the audience. By incorporating a social issue that was highly relatable, each audience member also had the opportunity to be positively influenced by the play and its intentions.

It's A Wonderful Life: A Radio Play
Review by: Courtney Johnson
The production of It's A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play, was able to bring back memories of the original film, to those in the audience that have seen the movie. The University of Minnesota Duluth theater department did an excellent job performing this play in the Marshall Performing Arts Center. On Friday night, the play was broadcasted over the KUMD station live. Doing this, made the production of It's a Wonderful Life unlike the other plays. The original film is always shown around Christmas time, and most people tend to love the film. Since this is the case, creating a play to live up to the original film can be a difficult task to do.
However, Lee Gundersheimer, the director of this production, was able to produce a play that the audience thought was effective. Gundersheimer did an excellent job choosing the different designers for the play, in order to make the play stand out. The designers of the play were Christopher Grumpper, the lighting designer, Erin Ohland, the scenic designer, and Jenna Houck, the costume designer.
Grumpper, did a phenomenal job with the lighting throughout the production. Without the lighting effects, the play would not be the same. It was able to set the mood and show what time of day it was. For example, during the scenes of the play that were supposed to take part during the day, it was obvious because the stage was bright and lighter colors were shown. For nighttime, the shades would tend to ease into darker colors.
Ohland, did a great job by making the stage create an appropriate setting. Props such as, microphones that were old-fashioned looking, are just one example of how the production was presented to make it seem like it took place in the past. To take the setting of a radio station, signs were presented that read "Applause" and "On-Air". These little details made a big impact to making the play more realistic.
Not only did Ohland do well in making the setting seem realistic, but so did costume designer, Jenna Houck. Houck helped by making the setting of the production seem like the year was 1940. She did this by having the characters be dressed in old-fashioned suits and dresses, and different types of shoes.
The director and the designers were not the only people who took part in making this production fabulous. The actors had a huge part in it as well! In the production the characters ranged from young to old, which one would think would make it challenging for the actors to portray. However these actors had their roles figured out down to a T. They were able to change their body language and voices in a way to fit their age and appropriate personality of that character.
Overall, this production is a heartfelt play, as is movie. This is a play that the whole family can see! Plus, it is the perfect time to go and see it since the holidays are right around the corner!

It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play
A Review by Lauren Cain
It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play, was an interesting and unique outlook on the original story which was tied together with a live radio show. This was a very intriguing concept given that UMD, to my knowledge, has never done a radio show before, and broadcasted it live. One of the aspects that was unique and enjoyable about this production, was that the all of the actors (with the exception of the characters Mary Hatch Bailey and George Bailey)each portrayed a variety of roles. It was interesting to watch how each actor's stature changed as they played each character. One of the most impressive aspects of this play lies withing the costume and set design. Each of these had their own way of making the audience feel transported back to the 1940s. Not only were the costumes very realistic to the time period, but they were very well fitted and flattering to the actors and actresses. The set was interesting as well. The false proscenium stage was a nice contrast to the usual black curtains, which hide the back stage from the audience, much like in Do Black Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up? Another piece of the set that was interesting was the different levels in which the actors could stand on.
However, this production had a few issues that were not quite up to par. The Jingle Bell chorus had problems with their music. Often times they sounded unprepared and did not blend their voices well. It seemed as if each of them had different voice types, and instead of learning to blend, really tried to be a soloist. An aspect of the set that did not seem to make sense was the back light revealing parts of the town from the story such as the bridge, Bailey's Brothers Building and Loans, and a house front. While this was a clever idea, it may have made more sense to concentrate on making it appear like a studio, given the fact that it is a radio show, and the idea is that the story is fictional.
Overall, this production was thoroughly enjoyable, and a nice change from UMD's usual large musicals, and small dramas. A perfect show for the family during the holidays.

It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play
A review by Michael Timm

This play was definitely one of kind. From this classic story, came a very unique play experience that I certainly enjoyed. A big reason why this story was unique was because it was on radio simultaneously as the play was being performed on stage. Though the play was a bit more of a Radio play than an actual play (the actors were standing near microphones the entire time, giving it a radio quality to it).

It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play started with some of the actors talking into the mike’s saying how they were worried about the play being shut down because of lack of sponsors. I didn’t know if it was part of the act or what, but it ended up being part of the act to have a more radio production feel to it. Which I really enjoyed, because the actors had to do some serious transitioning between parts. Lee Gundershimer, the director, did a fantastic job of having the actors’ transition from one character to another. Though I am sure it was easier making this distinction on Radio, on stage it was an entirely different story. In the beginning, I was getting a bit confused between who was who because some of the actors played almost half a dozen different roles. Through the addition of a hat or a pair of glasses, Alex Goebel could be Harry Bailey, Henry “Jazzbo” Heywood, or Bert the cop. Often times he would be having a conversation with himself with the different characters he’d be playing. His performance really stood out, and it was always a joy when he was on stage he was that great. Goebel really made this play more then worth the watch he was that funny. Another actor that dies well was Dan Marta. He was definitely more of the actor when it came to non-verbal acting, though I have to point out that his different voices were and the performance of the older gentleman was quite comical. Not really an “actor” per say, but someone who deserves a bit or credit herself is the person that was producing the background noise. Windows breaking, doors opening and closing, people waling away, etc. This woman produced all the noise that we heard. I must apologize that I don’t know her name, but she was great. She had to time every noise perfectly, which I don’t think people in the audience/hearing it on the radio understood what kind of hard work she was doing. All in all, I was amazed at some of the voice acting in this play.

I thought the director’s approach to the play was very admirable. He made an old classic into something that I have never seen before. The scenic part of the play was very simple. Though they couldn’t move around too much because they had to stay near their microphones, I thought the scene design was appropriate to the overall production.

I came into this play not reading anything about it nor knowing what it was going to be about. But I walked out of there with a smile on my face. It had good light-hearted comedy and was a good transition from other plays that have been shown at UMD. Overall, if you don’t go see this play you are missing out on some good PG-rated humor that was a great kick-start to my holiday spirit.

Reviewed by Justin Servellon

Seeing a live performance of the radio play It’s a Wonderful Life was truly a treat. The idea is that a radio play is in trouble and is being threatened with closure. They perform a play about a man who is about to end his life, angels take pity on him and investigate his past to find how to help him out. Live band and a sound effect guru all help out in placing a mood to the play and giving it emphasizes on actions taking place.
The story of the play was presented to us an interesting way. We are given a cast and crew of actors ready to perform the radio play It’s a Wonderful Life. From there, the audience is treated to the live rendition of said play. Characters were all played very well. It is a little difficult to explain but it was actors acting like radio actors acting like characters in a play, although care was taken as to divide the different parts. One moment the play would be going along, forgetting that it is a play in a play, but then they cut to a commercial reminding us all that for a moment we slipped away to a different story. A thing that could have been different was how rushed it felt towards the end where the protagonist goes to a world where he was never born in. Understandably, he did a lot of things that helped out his world and to cover how it would have changed without him is asking a lot.
The big element that really helped give this play depth was the ability the actors had to keep characters different and unique. Keep in mind that some actors played several roles, and the only real difference is the voice change and maybe a prop added or removed. Complementing each actor and their character were the sound effects provided to help emphasize actions being done on stage. Honestly, with it all feeling like was run by the narration, sound effects, and the voices, the only difference between watching and listening to it is just getting to watch their facial expressions. Seeing it live allows others to see how the actors facially reacted to each other, a plus I may add.
The other elements that helped out with the play were the lighting and sound. Music was jazzy, giving it a lively feel, and it was right for the Holiday season. Lighting was done tastefully to help add a more emphasized mood to a scene. Audience interaction was part of the show but only really used towards the beginning and end for applause, perhaps bigger and brighter applause sign to be more visible, but not needed.
Overall, the play was a wonderful Christmas tale about love and family. The actors put in a lot to make these characters unique, characters we loved, and the one we hated. A great play to see with the family this season.

Play review of It’s a Wonderful Life
By: Sam McCurry
It’s a Wonderful life a radio play is a wonder performance. The story of It’s a wonderful life is there but equally there is the interesting pieces of seeing a radio play. Hearing the same person doing different voices and seeing them same person speaking provides the audience with a need to let their minds be tricked.
The performance of It’s a wonderful life is also there and amazing. The characters on the stage do an amazing job of describing the play and verbalizing what would have been acted out if it had been a real play in person. Having the play as a radio play made the play accessible to those who may not be able to see the play on a stage. The audio description provided by the actors painted a vivid image in the mind of what the actors in the play were doing.
Another interesting thing about the play were the sound effects the actors used the simplest things to make different sound effects on the stage. At one point in the show a window breaks. To simulate this noise without actually breaking a window every show the actors had a box with broken glass in it and shook it to simulate glass breaking. It sounded like glass was breaking it was really cool. There were other sounds that were simulated by other sounds. There was a wind machine on stage that one of the actors turned to simulate the sound of wind the sound was real.
Overall it was a wonder show.

In the performance it’s a wonderful life; it being a radio broadcast that was a little different than the audience would expect. To begin with the actors being on stage while people were coming in and finding there seat was a lot different than any other play. Just going about there “everyday” routine. Then before you knew it the whole stage became apart of the radio scene. The “On Air” light came on and that’s when everything became real.

The most intriguing part of the whole play was the Mixologist. She had the best roll by far. Making all the sounds of the door opening and closing the glass breaking and even the wine glasses clinking. The fact that she was involved with every sound made in the whole play was a very cool feeling to be apart of. She knew exactly what was coming next, and always seemed busy. I caught the audience looking at her some times more than anything else.

The backdrop was a very sheer screen and you would only be able to see that if you were in the upper level. The audience could see through the whole set and that made things feel a little different and awkward.

The wardrobe hair and make up really took us back to the time frame and made us feel like we were there. I always seem to see the character Mary. She is in so many other productions on University of Minnesota Duluth campus. Mary in this play, played such a new and different role. She was falling in love and playing two different guys at the same time. When last month I watched her be the goody good in the play. Every time I watch her perform she really does a very nice job at what she does. She really acts in the time. There was also a guy in the play that played many different roles; just by the way he changed his voice. I think this would have been really cool to hear with out seeing what was happening on stage.

Over all I would recommend this play to other people it was a very cool and different version of a play but you still got the feel of the whole play. I would say even small kids could be in attendance. It was fun to be told when to clap and when not to and it really made the audience interact with the members on stage. You could give them feed back, but clapping and feeding the energy to them.

Seeing the UMD production of It's a Wonderful Life, A Live Radio Play was the first time this Christmas story was introduced to me. The story was very good and the performance was a great theatre experience overall. Having a theatre performance where the audience actually is serving as part of the experience rather than just being spectators was very interesting and unlike any other performance I had been to. That aspect added a sense of excitement to the play and made the play easier to pay attention and get into.

A play with mostly dialogue can become dull and drab after a while, but knowing that it is in fact a radio play allows one to focus more on the story itself. The performance though was not drab at all. With the little breaks in the story allowing one to return back to the real world and then become a part of the play itself makes the play unique and interesting to attend and also helped to bring life back into the play if it got boring, which it did not.

The play is also a pleasant reminder and also a sort of history lesson to all of where mass media entertainment in America has developed from. The actual theatrical performance follows many of the traditional styles, but the actual story of it being a radio show from the 1940's, a time when mass media entertainment was mostly dialogue or music, a time that the most popular form of entertainment product purchased for the home was a radio. The use of the old style architecture, the sound-effects person, the old clothes, the old radio station get up with the old microphones and the live band and doo-wop girls really made the performance interesting for me. This perspective of this play for me really stood out, since American history in the 20th century is one of my interests.

This story also brings out a side of the human nature that we could possibly see sometime in our lives and allows one to explore this. The play is a reminder that all should be thankful for what we have and that we all have a purpose, a lesson all should take to heart.

This performance the first time for me seeing It's a Wonderful Life, A Live Radio Play, and it was definitely an experience that will be unique to me. For me, it is a refreshing twist on the traditional Christmas stories told around this time, and one story that particularly has become a favorite of mine. It offered a twist on the traditional theatre going experience, and really reaffirmed my confidence that UMD theatre can deliver and will continue to deliver quality productions.

It's a Wonderful Life is a production that has been around for many and many of years and is truly loved by the American Audience. This historical production was remade by actors and actresses here at UMD. This review will discuss how the UMD actors portrayed the original version of the play, the impact of bringing past plays to the future, and the overall grade of the play, "Its A Wonderful Life."
During the production there were glimpses of the actors and actresses performance that put a member of the audience in the mind of the original play. For example George character was portrayed extremely well throughout the play some would even say better than the original George himself. The way he conversed his lines during the production put you in the mind of the original play, it actually made you think you were watching the original production. Also I feel the UMD production set the scene of the play extremely well. They did this by making the stage look as if you were in a 1940s setting especially with the way the theatre was used with balcony seating and lower level seating. That was extremely important cause when watching plays of the past thats how one of this generation would portray the theatre site. Finally the supporting cast such as Mary and Harry were great during the production, they filled their roles well with all the energy they brought to the production.
The UMD production of "Its A Wonderful Life," had a huge impact on the community of Duluth. It brought back the christmas spirit during the season of christmas. Also the play has a huge impact because it brings original culture back to the American theatre and it also incorporates todays world along with the culture of the past. This is huge because it makes one imagination wonders about the possibilities of what the past was really like and it keeps the audience interested and thinking about the play. Finally it just helps re-enforce how history has shaped the way theatre is done now a days due to how theatre was done in the past, it gives you a sense on how to make a positive production or bring people back to theatre even with all the new mediums that have been created.
Overall the play gets an 8.5 out of 10. They portrayed the original play successfully. The characters brought energy, charisma, and a knowledge of their characters which caused the production to be a successful one. Also another major thing that got the play a 8.5 is because how they played the history factor and also incorporated modern ideas or ways in the production which cause one to be more interested and active in the audience.

UMD’s production of It’s a Wonderful Life: A live Radio Play was a different type of theatre than typically seen in the Duluth area, yet went over very well with the audience. Lee Gundersheimer was the director this classic play, he did a wonderful job of casting characters that pulled off the 1940’s feel, and also provided the audience with a reinforcing visual with costumes and stage design.

This seemed like a difficult play for the actors because most of them had to portray many different characters. While switching from character to character they did a wonderful job keeping their voices very separate from one another which would have been important to the people listening on the radio. George Bailey (Paul LaNave) was the main character that experiences hardships with his business, he gets so stressed and starts to lose his focus on what is truly important in his life. He wishes that he were never born, causing his guardian angel, Clarence (Dan Marta) to show him what the world would have been like. George does not like what he sees and takes back what he said about wishing that he were never born. He comes back a changed person with more positive energy and a new appreciation for his life and everything that he has.

The costume designer did a great job of giving the audience a visual of the time frame of this play before it even started. The male actors were wearing older styled suits while the women had their hair done up in an aged fashion while wearing conservative dresses and high heals. The stage never changed throughout the production, it was set up with a bunch of standing microphones and in the corner there was a sound effects person making noises such as someone knocking on the door, walking up the stairs, etc. It was really interesting to see a sort of behind the scenes look at what a live radio show looks like. These types of shows were popular in the earlier half of the 1900’s. This play was also broadcasted live on UMD’s radio channel (KUMD 103.3) for anyone to listen to for free.

The lighting was a warm color that seemed to remain pretty consistent during the duration of the play. The only changes that were evident were time difference between day and night causing them to be brighter or dimmed down. The lights covered the entire stage so it was easy to see everything that was going on. There was a light that said “applause” that went off a few times during the play which added a really unique touch to the production.

Overall, the production was a huge success; the cast members did a wonderful job of having to be many different characters at once and allowing an easy transition for the audience to follow. This is a must see classical play that is appropriate for people of all ages to enjoy and also sends a good message to keep in mind about looking at things that really are important in life, especially evident during this holiday season.

It's a Wonderful Life, A Live Radio Play directed by Lee Gundersheimer was a heartfelt Christmas story that followed a man throughout life and portrayed his struggles and joys.

Set in the 1940s, the play tells the story of George Bailey (Paul LaNave) as he fears that his life is worthless and wishes he had never been born, all on Christmas Eve. His wife Mary, was skillfully performed by Emily Fletcher. Throughout the performance she showed an unforgettable kind of love, as she stood with him through all his decisions. Because the play was a radio broadcast the actors did frequently switch characters however, several other main roles were: Uncle Billy (Thomas Matthes) and Mr. Potter (Joe Cramer). Also, as the play unfolds, George's guardian angel Clarence, (Dan Marta) watches the happenings of Georges life, and is eventually sent on a mission from heaven to save him.

The main storyline follows Bailey as he goes through his life. It shows that even though he always seems to do the right thing; he always gets the short end of the stick. His dreams are continually compromised in an effort to aid others, and he ends up on Christmas Eve at his wits end, wishing he were dead. Through an ironic twist of events he seemingly gets his wish, but then begins to realizes just how many people he had touched through his selfless behavior.

All the actors did an excellant job transforming their voices, so that their characters took on a realistic and believable tone. Oftentimes the change in voice was also accompanied with an alternate prop costume adeptation which made their part all the more authentic. The stage setup also heavily accented the overall radio show vibe. With its somewhat crowded proximities, the stage provided an authentic feel of how a radio studio might feel. The lighting was done with a professional touch as well. With each new person talking, the lights switched from actor to actor, in order to highlight the ones talking.

This particular production was very interesting for me personally because as I was growing up my family didn't have TV, so radio was my primary source of sports, entertainment, drama, etc. It was very intriguing to see how all the sound effects were made, and how the same actor could change his/her voice so much that they sounded like a completely different character. When your listening to a show via the radio, you always imagine what the different characters look like. One of the aspects I really enjoyed was being able to put a face with a voice.

I thought the overall message of the play was a good reminder of how many people we each touch. The writer did not intend to create a prideful attitude, but rather to let everyone know that that their life does have a purpose, whether they can see and comprehend it or not. Writer Joe Landry exemplifies this belief as he shows how Bailey does figure out what a lucky man he truly is.


It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play is a recreation of the original story we all know so well. UMD’s version however, was set up like a 1940’s radio studio named WDUL whose insufficient funds may cause them to go out of business, even on Christmas Eve! The cast portrays to the audience how badly tthey need sponsors to help them stay open and spread the Christmas cheer through the holidays. They decide that It’s a Wonderful Life is the perfect last radio play they can do unless they find more sponsors immediately.

During the actual radio broadcast the limited cast acts out the original story using different voices, props, and background noises. After hearing about this play doubts had surfaced, but surprisingly the actors portrayed each individual character very well with their own individual characteristics. The cast understood how important the slight differences between each and every character make the play and broadcast much more exciting and believable. In person, this play is even better. The actors portray 1940’s creative body language even though they are very restricted by movements and eye contact on stage. When the actors did get the chance to move around the stage it was hard to hear and understand them at times. In person this was not as big of a problem, but for the radio listeners it could have been somewhat frustrating.

The original story was portrayed very clearly through all of the extra, necessary elements that UMD theatre provided the audience with. The radio station’s story was believable and very entertaining leaving the audience hoping for the best. The stage set was very convincing, and such things as “The Jingle Bells” or the “Applause” sign made the play realistic and close to home from a completely different perspective.

During the holiday season it can be hard to go out and find something relaxing, enjoyable things to do with the family. It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play excites audiences of any age and brings warm sentimental feelings into the room. The cast hits a homerun with the story leaving the audience feeling thankful and happy after witnessing the production.

UMD’s It’s a Wonderful Life was a different take on a timeless Christmas classic – you could say it was a play wrapped inside of a play. The show begins before It’s a Wonderful Life even starts, while the audience members get to their seats, the actors slowly trickle onto the stage and begin to interact with one another and the audience as if they were actual radio actors from the 1940s about to perform a live radio broadcast. It seemed a bit tacky at first but it added another dimension to the performance and the characters.
From the beginning it was pretty easy to tell the strong actors from the not so strong actors. The main character was very good, he had precise body language, strong character choices, and was easy to connect with. The only issue was that his voice could have changed a little more as George Bailey grew older but other than that he was fantastic. The actor who played Peter Bailey, however, was not so strong. Most of his voices seemed lackluster and very similar to each other. There wasn’t a whole lot of depth. Also, Freddie Filmore’s voice was a little shaky at the beginning of the show but that’s most likely the result of opening night jitters.
The stage and lighting was very cool – it was interesting to see how the background changed between when It’s a Wonderful Life was going on and when it was paused for commercials with the lighting changes behind the minsc (by the way, Mark I didn’t know you worked for Fitgers!).
Overall, this play was an enjoyable experience for all ages. It’s hard not to like It’s a Wonderful Life but that shouldn’t undermine UMD’s performance in any way - they put a new angle on a classic story and pulled it off in a big way. This one was definitely worth the money, nice job.

Wow. Simply wow. UMD's It's a Wonderful Life was performed quite well. Taking a classic Christmas story and bringing it new live in a radio play. The scenery, the costumes, the gestures and characteristics portrayed by the actors all screamed the era of which the play came from; the 1940's. Brown and grey pin striped suits, top hats, long un-revealing dresses it was all so well done. As for the scenery, the old time microphones on the stage and the tell tale sign of the early 1900's was on the wall; faded, green, flower print wall paper. It was a nearly flawless designed play from head to toe, inside and out.
The actors gave new life to a radio play. They acted in sort of a play within a play kind of way. You could tell by their constant moving of positions and handouts that they were still "in" the radio station. Yet, their acting brought you far far away from that small radio station to a little town named Bedford Falls. If you weren't careful, you might find yourself forgetting that the play is actually in a radio station! Their constant ability to interact with the audience, and then bring themselves to Bedford Falls and Bailey's Bank and Loan, was impressive and enjoyable.
Another aspect that kept bring up the wow factor was the sound effects in the back of the stage. More frequent than not, one might find yourself enjoying the play and not realizing that the sounds of the actions of the actors, like opening doors, and throwing rocks, weren't actually being made by them, but instead were being made in the back of the station. It was all very realistic and the timing was better than I expected.
Now to the story line. Obviously taken from an already classic story line, the director did a great job at incorporating the radio play style. The play was very well directed, scenes changed smoothly, actors knew their lines, and everything made sense and tied together. The added twist of the radio stations last broadcast and needing sponsors was a delight and brought even more entertainment to an already great performance.
So congratulations to UMD and a job well done. Well worth the time and money, definitely one for the record books.

The University of Minnesota Duluth’s production of It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Production was a much different than the kind of theater production that the people of Duluth usually have an opportunity to see. The director of this classic performance was Lee Gundersheimer, the same man who directed Boeing Boeing in the semester. He did a great job of really giving the audience that feel of being back in the 1940s, which is partly because of the great job he did in casting the characters for the play. Another thing that helped give the audience was the old school stage design.
One thing that complemented the old school stage design was the costumes. The costume designer did a great job at matching the costumes with the stage design and the time frame. The costumes for the women couldn’t have been better. They included dresses that were not revealing in any way, high heels, and of course, the classic old fashioned hair up do. As for the men, their costumes consisted of a much older style of suit and all of the men had short well kempt hair styles. One of the things that can be noted in both of the productions that Lee Gundersheimer has directed this year (It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Production and Boeing Boeing) is that the stage did not change throughout the play. This seems to be a personal style and it is working for him. The stage was set up with several microphones, and there was also a sound effects booth in the corner. The sound effects booth helped the play along by making noises such as someone knocking on a door, walking, walking up stairs, etc. This really gave the audience a behind the scenes look at what really goes on during a radio talk show, much similar to the radio talk show in the movie Sea Biscuit. This type of radio talk show was very popular back in the day, and the people in Duluth had an opportunity to listen to the live performance on KUMD (103.3).
The most impressive part of the play was how the actors were able to maintain distinction between their characters. Having to maintain a certain accent, while going back and forth between different characters is very difficult. Seeing as this was a radio talk show, this would have been very important for the listeners because they had to create the image of who was talking in their minds. The main character in this play was George Bailey and was wonderfully played by Paul LaNave. Another major character was Clarence, played by Dan Marta. When George loses the focus on what is really important in life, and wishes he was never born, his guardian angel Clarence comes to save him and put him back on the right path. Clarence does a great job, and as a result, George is much happier and has a much more positive energy.
This Play was a huge success. All parts of the production seemed to work together to make one enjoyable whole. Everyone should see this classic play, if you’re are a first timer, or even if you are a repeat offender, It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Production is a must see.

It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play review by Jon Fundine

The performance at UMD's Marshall Performing Arts Center of It's A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play was a unique twist on the classic Frank Capra movie of It's A Wonderful Life. The vision of director Lee Gundersheimer created a very appealing and entertaining performance. Great thought and attention to detail brought together a very enjoyable experience for the audience.

Costume design truly created the feeling of the 1940's. From the wingtip shoes, the high heeled shoe, the old fashioned dresses, the sweaters worn by some, even the hats worn by some brought that feeling to life. Each performer had multiple characters to portray, creating a challenge for costume designer Jenna Houck. With the use of many accessories and subtle costume changes she did a masterful job in creating the many characters that were portrayed.

When you think of old time radio broadcasts you picture the old fashioned microphone. Erin Ohland came through in creating that old time radio broadcast feeling. There was the “Applause” light and the old “On-Air” sign that prompted the audience into applause and into silence while the broadcast was being aired. The sound effects desk that she created right on stage seemed so authentic. The entire stage design was very pleasing to look at.

Lighting design done by Christopher Gumpper was outstanding. A very interesting and unique element of the design was the use of a scrim wall. While lit from the front it appeared to be a green shade of the radio station walls. When lit from behind it created a life of its own. The illusion of the Bailey house was incredible and made you feel as if you were truly part of the Bailey household. At times it almost appeared that it was a 3-d image. And toward the end of the performance all of a sudden the stage came to life with the illusion of snow falling that was so realistic you could almost feel it.

A great challenge was created for the cast. Each cast member had multiple characters to portray. It was difficult to pick out 1 or 2 stand out performers. Each cast member did an equally fantastic job of change voice and character. Almost seamlessly each performer was able to change focus from one character to another. The ability of the performers to change voice was remarkable, showing the true talent that exists right in our own community. The ability of the performers to speak in young voices portraying the children in movie was amazing. Paul Lanave (George Bailey, young George, and Jake Laurents), Emily Fletcher (Mary Hatch and Sally AppleWhite), Thomas Matthes (Freddie Filmore, Uncle Billy) and Dan Marta (Curtis Lorenzo, Clarence the Angel) all had outstanding performances. But it would be unjust to single out anyone cast member as all the performers showed off their true talent and came through with outstanding portrayals of their characters.

At first it was a little hard to follow the story line. Having seen the movie for many years it was a little difficult to distance oneself from how the movie was done and how the live theater performance was done. However, it only took a short time to realize that the theater production was truly a unique performance that took on a life of its own. And that the theater performance was just as enjoyable as the television movie version that we have grown up with and enjoyed for so many years.

It' a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play is an interesting spectacle. It is a theatrical adaption of the film of the same name, but is also broadcasted live over the KUMD radio station as it is being performed. It has the advantage of being able to portray of multiple characters with a smaller cast size and makes interesting use of music and sound throughout the productions. However, it also has some drawbacks, like volume control and limited physical movement.

There is an intriguing aspect of the radio play in that a wide range of characters can be achieved with a smaller cast. This is done with the augmentation of the voice and, for the live audience, body posture and props. It is entertaining to see actors transform into several different characters onstage in full view of the audience.

The musical aspect of It's a Wonderful Life is both practical and amusing. Part of the orchestra is onstage as a visual part of the production, which works well as it is a part of the "radio play of a radio play" aspect. Also, the person in charge of sound effects is onstage as a character in the play, which was interesting to see and witness her tinkering with various objects to make necessary sounds.

However, one of the disadvantages of the radio play aspect of this play is the actors have to be in front of the microphones, or fairly close proximity to them, so it would broadcast properly for the radio audience to hear. This has two negative effects on the production.

Firstly, the cast members could not be too loud in delivering their lines in order to achieve the proper volume level to broadcast. This makes it a bit difficult for the live audience to hear the actors speak, even if they are seated within an adequate distance from the stage. It leaves the people in the balcony straining to hear what is being said on stage.

Secondly, the cast members, again, because of the close proximity to microphones, could not be as expressive in their body language as one might expect in a stage performance. With minimal action happening on the stage, the audience's attention can start to wane or even lose interest in the performance. As mentioned before, there is a lot to offer in the way of facial and vocal expressions, but many cannot rely on those alone to hold their focus.

Although there are some drawbacks to being a live radio play as well as a live theatre performance, It's a Wonderful Life is an interesting play to see and is sure to put you in a festive mood for Christmas.

The University of Minnesota Duluth’s production of “It’s a Wonderful Life A Live Radio Play” written by Joe Landry and directed by Lee Gundersheimer was a well executed play filled with christmas cheer. The show was put on in a unique matter very different from the typical play produced here in Duluth, however it was done in a charming and very entertaining matter, drawing the audience in and leaving them satisfied with the show.
The set was simple and effective with a thrust stage and beige walls set up too look like a radio broadcast center along with the musicians in the back and microphones placed around the stage for the actors to use. It was realistic and easy to follow giving the actors enough freedom to move around and be creative in the space while also staying true to the format of the show. Also, the screen in the back which was used to project a silhouette of the old house was very clever and added a more intimate feeling to the scenes with Mary and George. The costumes were also impeccable. They gave each character a unique sense of self and were perfect for the time period. The use of props was also very cleverly tackled and added charisma to the show as well.
The actors were on stage as soon as the doors were open, which was a nice touch. It allowed the audience to feel connected to the performers before the show even started. The actors themselves did an incredible job. Each and everyone of them created distinct, interesting and heart felt characters, whether they were small or large. The realistic and almost stereotypical fashion of the many stock characters was brilliant. It added humor to the show without taking away from the overall message of what is important in life. It also allowed the audience to really connect to the people in the story. The overall range of the cast was remarkable. Two of the major stand outs were Alex Goebel who portrayed Henry “Jazzbo” Heywood, Harry Bailey and others along with Dan Marta who portrayed Curtis Lorenzo, Clarence the Angel and others. Both gave exceptional performances showing a wide range of characters and claimed the stage as their own, easily keeping the audiences attention and handing over the spotlight when needed. Paul LaNave and Emily Fletcher’s portrayals of George Bailey and Mary Hatch were also noteworthy. Their chemistry and charming fin-esse capturing audiences hearts, causing them to root for their relationship and happiness throughout the show. Ultimately the entire cast did a marvelous job and it resulted in an extraordinary show.
The only disappointment was the Jingle Belles. While they were a charming addition to the show, their performance was lackluster and not up to par with the rest of the production. Their singing could have used some work and it was obvious that one of them was not in tune with the rest. Also, it was a wasted opportunity since there was no use of harmonizing which would have been an excellent addition, easily spicing up the songs. However, the girls did to a good job presenting themselves as background singers and created unique individual characters which was much appreciated.
Overall, it was a show well worth every penny. It was a pleasure to watch and definitely one to see.

Joshua Lemke
December 11, 2012
It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play

When one thinks of the theater the image of vastly designed sets doused with extravagantly dressed actors housing even more overgenerous personalities, dancing around the stage, bellowing out lines to a petrified audience. All while trying to persuade the amygdala to allow it to slip pasted the cerebellum and gain entrance into their cerebrum. This obvious over exaggeration can be tossed out whenever the addition of UMD’s awesome theater program is injected into the ever changing equation.
University of Minnesota: Duluth’s rendering, and obvious improvement, on the elder story of It’s a Wonderful Life was spectacular. By taking the play in the direction they did left a vast plain for the imagination to run rampant. Instead of the traditional form of acting, many, if not all, of the actors simply used their voice to create the fabric of the story. Leaving your mind to stich it together and add the dye.
The appeal of the actors left nothing to desire. They had charm, class, and most of all, humor. Dressed in 1940’s attire and downing a Duluth accent, the radio staff at WDUL gets ready for the lights to be turned off for good. Despite their current, and apparently crappy, sponsors’ wishes, the crew at WDUL “The Voice of Duluth” put on one more show in hopes that a little Christmas magic will snow down on them and Santa will bring more sponsors their way.
Being a show with few actors but many characters, the actors themselves had to take on multiple roles. In true UMD fashion, not only did the actors simply play the characters, they became the characters, if only for a short time on stage. While giving voice to their scripted fellows, many of whom had vastly different personalities and expressions, many of the audience members could simply slip into their unconscious state in which the characters roamed free. By closing your eyes, the jumbled mess of wires and microphone stands gave way to a small town in which many people have lead a less than miserable life. From this point, the voices found bodies of their own and the real play began in the realm of the imagination.
As the play drew to a close and the story dwindled to embers, you come to the realization that before you is not a city built upon the hard work of one man but rather a simple crowded broadcasting room with nine actors, all wide eyed and full of smiles, at the fact that their cry for help had been answered. Two sponsors had come to their rescue with beer and joyous occasion.
It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Broadcast was a fun filled, imaginative story in which the actors took the audience on a journey through the life a simple man who had a not so simple effect on a dying town. I would highly recommend this show and give the amazing actors a round of applause.

It’s a Wonderful Life Review
Ryan Olsen

UMD’s production of It’s a Wonderful Life (Radio Play) was quite unique being that it was a radio production. The characters where wonderful at the narrative but also did a great job of interacting with each other. A failing radio company doing it’s last broadcast to gain sponsor’s like Fitzger’s beer and an international bank of commerce was inventive but it also seamed like a way to cut costs on stage production which made viewing the play less interesting. The costumes were very well designed and worked with the time period, plus the slight changes in costumed helped to add to the change in character that each actor portrayed with voice changes.
It was very successful to have the noise engineer on stage breaking glass when needed, and running all the devices needed for sound in the play/broadcast it was both interesting to watch in itself and in how it fit with the script. How each actor portrayed many roles was very nicely done although some seemed to be stretching their vocal range they all pulled off their roles very nicely.
Keeping in mind that It’s a Wonderful Life is also a movie, viewers my have had preconceptions about the play that affected them but personally having never seen the movie it was an interesting plot that fit goes with the season. The motives of the characters seemed unrealistic, a man who saved his brother and later putting his brother through college finding out that he could be going to prison coming home to yell at his children and wife doesn’t follow very well. A family man like George Bailey would make more sense coming home and crying.
Besides a great cast, band and a good plot a lot of people can consider Christmas a turbulent time of the year and It’s a Wonderful Life really echoes that but also gives hope that people will pull together in a time of need like the town did for George Bailey.
In conclusion It’s a Wonderful Life was a very successful production on UMD’s part.

It’s a Wonderful Life- Live Radio Play Review
Joslyn Danielson


The classic story of George Bailey and his friends and family was brought to life in a whole new way with UMD Theatre’s production of It’s a Wonderful Life. This show was truly unique since radio theatre is done in a whole different way from traditional plays. The costumes are limited and the cast played many different characters since the voices are what really mattered. It all flowed very smoothly and formed an exceptional show.

The main characteristic that makes this show different is that it is intended to be listened to over the radio as an audio play. This means that there is little attention focused on the visual aspects such as costumes, sets, and even realistic casting. Grown men play children, and young women play grumpy old ladies. The cast’s ability to use convincing character voices are all that matter in this show, and not their physical appearance.

The performance was set in the 40’s radio studio of WDUL, in which It’s a Wonderful Life was being broadcast. The setup was merely a series of old fashioned microphones that the actors would use as they delivered their parts. There was limited to no blocking or movement by the actors. When their part came, they stepped up to the microphone and delivered their lines, focusing on speaking into the microphone. They would occasionally speak to each other, but it wasn’t their main goal to make the show visually realistic.

The cast did an exceptional job in using different voices that differentiated their characters. Since each actor played multiple roles, they had to focus on establishing characteristic voices for each role. All of the cast members did exceptionally well at this and if the speaker wasn’t visible, it would have been difficult to believe that they were even the same person. This added to the comedic effect since, in some instances, actors would end up playing two different characters having a conversation with each other. Thus, the actor would be playing both roles and taking to themselves. Alex Goebel did this exceptionally well and the audience was fascinated with his, as well as the other’s vocal changes.

In addition to the differentiation, the actors had to put extensive effort into bringing energy to their voices, since that was what made the show. Acting with the voice was much more important than acting with the body. Volume was very important, however the actors occasionally strayed from the microphones, and if one were listening over the radio, it would be difficult to hear everything that was said. This is most likely due to the fact that these actors are all theatre trained and are so used to having to use their bodies to act as well as their voices.

Even though the show was intended for the “listeners”, Director Lee Gundersheimer took the live audience into account as well and provided the cast with minimal costume changes and props, such as a wheelchair for Mr. Potter (Joe Cramer), and hats and props for the rest of the cast. This made it much easier to follow the story since the same actors play many of the characters.

In conclusion, this show is a wonderful choice for the holiday season. Even if Frank Capra’s film has gotten old and overused, this production is a whole new experience. It brings new life to the old story and it is told in a way that has not been seen before. It was very well done, and a phenomenal experience for the whole family.

UMD's theater production of It's a Wonderful Life: a Live Radio Play was a unique experience from the beginning. As you find your way to your seat, the atmosphere was instantly changed to a live radio broadcast room. The Audience was quick to realize that WDUL was a failing radio station, but due to nothing other than Christmas spirit decided to put on a show despite the lack of sponsors.

At WDUL,the atmosphere was a buzz with excitement of the Christmas show. The stage design was amazing. It even had it's own Applause sign so the audience knew when to clap. The many levels of the actual floor design of the stage made for a pleasant viewing experience, especially when the cast would change character roles. During one point in particular in the show, the stage is back-lit with a front door scene and The use of lighting and the "snow" was a great touch!


The production would not have been such a great success without the sound effect booth set up on the stage. All of the effects were spot on! However, the lady who was primarily in the booth didn't receive enough credit for her performance. She was outstanding! She was very Important to making the show seem realistic.

The voice's were pretty phenomenal to listen to as well. It was so impressive to see how many different voices one single person could create! A great job was done by all!

This was a great play to attend so close to the holiday season. UMD really raised the bar in this production, and is sure to be enjoyed by both young and old!

These past two weeks the University of Minnesota Duluth has been showing “What a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Production.” This was a wonderful play recreating the classic movie, “What a wonderful Life.” The play followed the movie almost down to the last word. This performance had a live twist to it though because as an audience member the entire audience was able to “participate” in the radio broadcasting by laughing and cheering loudly. They presented it on stage and also on live radio, station 103.3 KUMD. The live version was very entertaining and kept the audience engaged through the entire thing.
Getting to the play early the actors where already doing their job by going around greeting the audience and making it really feel like a real live 1940’s radio production. They “prepared” and had small talk with the other actors while the audience filled their seats. This part was very interesting to see because it make the whole entire play seem more realistic and it helped make the audience feel more a part of the show. I thought the announcer was also realistic in explaining the applaud signs and welcoming the audience to participate in the show.
All of the actors did a good job with each of the characters they played. It was interesting because each of the actors played two or more characters, each with its own unique voice. Some of the actors arranged from a little baby voice to talking like a grandpa all within the same scene. It was usually very easy to distinguish between each character by voice, or by action. The only time it became somewhat confusing is when the same actor talked back and forth to himself, acting as different characters. This was made easier to understand by the actor’s mannerism. For each character they would change their mannerism in order to help the audience visualize the switch of characters.
The setting was very good. It was impressive how they set up the scene to look like a believable radio broadcasting. There was also the challenge of giving the actors enough room to walk around the microphones in order to actually act. They did a satisfied this predicament by clustering groups of microphones around each other and giving enough space in the center of the stage for movement. Also there was an actual changing set. In the background using lights and effects the scene changed and it even snowed and parts of the play.
The costumes were traditional 1940’s clothing. One unique thing about the costumes was many of the actors had small accessories to go along with each new character they were acting as, such things as hats or jackets or even suspenders.
The refreshing thing about this play that worried a few people by being a radio play is the amount of actual acting that was going to happen thought the play. It was good to see that the characters where walking around and moving throughout the stage. They told the whole story through gestures and also words.

"It's a Wonderful Life"

By Jarad Reiser

Seeing the production "It's a wonderful life" by Joe Landry , really evokes the holiday mindset. The story is a close comparison to "A Christmas Carol", having similar character roles and a heartwarming story. Each actor takes on multiple characters, which shows the diversity in voices and personalities from of the broad scope of actors at UMD.

The first thing attracting attention upon entering the venue is the feel of the stage. The background stretches up high and changes color with the mood of the actors. During scenes of turmoil the background turns hostile colors like orange and red to create a feeling of tension. When moments of sorrow take place, a deep blue color ensues, which creates a sense of sadness. Besides the background, the stage is populated with microphones in order to keep the dialogue heard over the radio. The environment that this creates is an animal of its own. The performance is more focused on the tones in the voices of the actors and slight body gestures that can be seen by the audience; instead of the show consisting of dancing and scenes of physical action. Most actors played more than one role. So the audience can get slightly confused when one person emulates two or sometimes even three voices in a row. But it's this aspect that contributes to the diversity of the actors on stage. With eyes closed, it'd be almost impossible to recognize some of the actors different voices coming from the same person. For example ,when Thomas Matthes emulates Freddie Filmore and Uncle Billy the two voices are quite unique. Besides the diversity in voices, it's the live broadcasting that made this show something special.

Since this performance was aired over the radio, a certain vibe was felt by the audience. The lady in charge of all the sound effects was a creative contribution to the play. During certain scenes the array of sounds was crucial in creating the atmosphere that the voice dialogue was being played out in. From the slamming of doors when George Bailey (Paul LaNave) was yelling at the grouchy Mr. Potter (Joe Cramer) to slightest sounds of a cork coming out of a bottle during the Christmas party. Each sound aided the scene and was very well timed out. A brief intermission with announcements and songs made for local businesses was quite entertaining. The songs sung by "The Jingle Bells" were very catchy and a good way to incorporate a sense of community into the production.

The general feel of the play was very heart warming. Seeing George Bailey (LaNave) go through trials and tribulations creates a sense of gratitude for life. The producer did an excellent job of creating a humbling feel. This play shows that life isn't always about the monetary value of things, or monetary things in general. Instead life is about focusing on the things that are sentimentally important.

Overall this is very unique style of show that most audiences haven't experienced before. From diversity of voices, to realistic sound effects, the atmosphere alone is something to come experience!

On November 29, 2012, It’s a Wonderful Life premiered at UMD in the Mainstage theatre. The classic movie inspired the UMD School of fine arts to debut It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play at UMD. The director, Lee Gundersheimer successfully captured and turned the 1947 film into a live radio play. A live radio play is certainly not a common type of theatre most people experience. This live radio production will be a new experience for many people.
Something that has to stand out when doing a live radio play is obviously the sound. A unique trait this play had as a live radio version is how the director chose to use the same actors throughout the performance to voice all the many characters. The actors’ talent for different voices was outstanding. The audience member who only just listened to the play without watching would think the cast was larger then it really was. Even though many of the character’s voices were spoken by some of the same performer’s, each of the play’s characters still had their own individuality. The different characters of the play were effectively performed well by the cast.
The costume designer did a great job dressing the actors. The costumes set the mood and took the audience back in time to the 1940s. The women’s dresses and the men’s suits fit the play well and were fashionable; they definitely gave a feeling of the past. What were also impressive were the sound effects. At first, some of the sounds done like the telephone ringing or the bell chiming, seemed pre recordings done on computer, but in fact they too were done live with instruments and tools. This gave the play a more realistic feel to it, living up to remaining live even during the sound effects. The stage design was very exciting to see. Since there isn’t any stage changes the stage design was meant for the whole play. It was interesting to see the decorations had a vintage look them, even the microphones looked the part.
Though the play lasted over two hours, it was entertaining all the way through. Since there was no need for scene changes or intermission, there was virtually no waiting in the audience. Even though the play was long, it seemed to go by fast. It could have been the comparing of the performance to the original films. For people that have seen the classic movie will probably come already expecting something. No doubt that the director did a great job transforming this classic American film not just into a play but a live radio play. The performer’s acting was remarkable and believable. With the extra pressures of reaching another audience the whole live performance came together very well, and will mostly likely exceed the audience’s expectations.
This play was absolutely worth the attempt to produce. It was hopeful and sentimental. It gave not only the performers and new experience but also the audience members. The uniqueness of this play being live and on the radio not only added a certain specialness to it, but also achieved its attempt of recreating the great original film.

It’s a Wonderful Life has been a play like none I have seen before. I have never seen the movie so this was my first chance to see the whole production. From the lighting, scenery, and overall feel of the play really helped me to get into the production.

First of all lets discuss the lighting. The lighting always dictated what time of day it was. From early morning to late night you always knew what time of day it was. The mood was also a huge factor, as you could see that the lights changed with the moods. Each time it was morning or a lighter mood was shown with bright vibrant colors while night would have darker shades. During the play it was the first time I had ever seen a scrim in action before. Like we learned in class when the light hit off it at the right time you could see nothing but the screen. I think that was an amazing thing that I witnessed for the first time.

Seeing as the play takes place in the early 40’s the costume design was a dip into the past. Being that I never grew up in that time period most of the women wore high heals. I think that the costume design was excellent and really gave a feel for the type of clothing worn by the people at the time.

The scenes that were given to the audience were of a real life old school radio station! This gave the audience a great idea of where everything was taking place throughout the play. One of the best things that I saw were the sighs that read Applause and On-Air. This added a real good element to the scenery. Overall I thought the stage was set very well.

The actors seemed to really be able to connect with the roles they were playing. I thought that they all did a phenomenal job with changing voice depth depending on the age they were. I have always found it fascinating that people have the ability to do that, so hats off to all the actors.

After seeing this production here at UMD I would have to say that it is a must see! Everything came together so nicely making the show itself amazing to witness. If I had to see it again I would taking a deeper look into the whole process of the production. Going that deep into the production process can only make this a much better experience for me

It’s a Wonderful Life

It’s a Wonderful Life: The Live Radio Play was put on by UMD’s Theatre Department. This play was not only performed at the Marshall Performing Arts Center but was also broadcasted live on KUMD, UMD’s own radio station. The fact that they had the setting of the play in a 1940’s WDUL radio station on stage while they were airing it over KUMD’s station was creative. However, I wish they could’ve used KUMD as the title of their station on stage, because then it would’ve made it sound like the play was actually done live out of KUMD’s studio. Lee Gundersheimer did a great job making this enjoyable for both the people watching at the theatre and also the people listening to the radio.

The actors did a great job portraying their different characters. I thought this play was going to be way harder to follow when I heard the actors were going to be playing multiple roles but with the different voices, the help of minor costume changes and for some even their posture hinted at a change in character. This made it easier to understand. I was very impressed by how they could get their voices to change for each character and was surprised when no one messed up and did the wrong voice for the wrong character.

Design was a major part of the play the costume design done by Jenna Houk was done wonderfully for this play. The suits and dresses the cast was wearing were perfect for the 1940’s scene. Speaking of scene, the scene design was done by Erin Ohland. I thought he did a very good job at setting the stage for a 1940’s radio station feel. However the stage was rather distracting with cords moving around all over the place. Not that this is the scene designers fault it’s just one of the flaws I noticed.

I did enjoy this play, which was surprising to me because I have a hard enough time sitting still through an action movie with food and drinks to distract myself with. This play was put on at the perfect time, and allowed me to get into the Christmas spirit. And being that this was meant to be a radio show I didn’t think there would be enough going on to hold my attention. I probably wouldn’t attend another live radio play just because it is so different than anything I’m used to watching but I still think UMD did a great job putting on this production.

Overall, this production of It's a Wonderful Life was spectacularly unique. One of the great aspects of the show was the pre-show actually playing in with the actual production and acting of the play. The atmosphere this build up to the actual performance made was a key contributor to the success of the performance.
Perhaps the most impressing part of the production was the sound effects. It was incredibly unique and really neat to see just what went in to the sound effects. When I wasn't looking or directly paying attention to the girl doing the sounds, I couldn't even notice that the sounds were being manufactured right on stage. Huge credit to the planning and immense amounts of trial and error that had to go in to that aspect of the show to get it just right.
Maybe equally as impressive as the onstage sound effects was the ability of the actors and actresses to alter their voices and become so many different characters.
The costumes and stage set complimented each other really well. The actors all wore the correct clothes for the decade. The props complimented it nicely and made it very cohesive. The microphones were a really great touch and looked accurate to the time period.
Overall, this performance was really tremendously well done. More Live Radio performances like this should be done! Great Work by the UMD Theatre!

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This page contains a single entry by Mark Harvey published on November 30, 2012 12:37 PM.

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