‘It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play’ at Annapolis Shakespeare Company

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Annapolis Shakespeare Company (ASC) presents It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play by Joe Landay that will delight audiences of all ages. A play-within-a-play, Annapolis Shakespeare Company rolls back time to circa 1940-ish, when radio was a family-oriented entertainment. The ASC cast plays radio personalities who in turn take on over 30-some characters from It’s a Wonderful Life, as well as the radio-show’s sound effects. Pre-show has the cast breaking the 4th wall to warm up the audience to become the radio-show audience. When the “applause” signs lit up, as the audience clapped, they became part of the show.

L to R: Teresa Spencer, Nick DePinto, Rob McQuay, and Sally Boyett. Photo by Joshua McKerrow.
L to R: Teresa Spencer, Nick DePinto, Rob McQuay, and Sally Boyett. Photo by Joshua McKerrow.

Producing Artistic Director Sally Boyett is radio personality Lana Sherwood who portrays the young and adult Violet, Rose “Mother” Bailey, Matilda, Ruth, Mrs. Hatch, Mrs. Thompson, Schultz, Zuzu, Janie, and Sadie Vance. As Mother Bailey, the years can be heard in her voice and seen too, as Boyett swaddles herself in a sweater and hunches over the standing mic to deliver Mother Bailey’s lines.

Some of the It’s a Wonderful Life roles are a simple voice change – like Zuzu’s, who sounds like “Betty Boop,” whereas adult Violet is flirty and feisty. Boyett shows that by a slight hip gesture, a flip of her hair, or the batting of her eyes. Her red polka-dotted wrap dress with her red and white chunky heels is a top choice for Lana Sherwood (radio person). Additionally, her pearl necklace adds sophistication to her outfit, along with her flowered hair piece. This is a fun-loving character (Lana and Violet) and Boyett, behind the scenes and on stage, is a multi-talented woman.

Kevin Alan is Jake Laurents, who plays both young and adult George Bailey, is quite charming with his innocent looks and facial expressions. As George, his frown is apparent as disappointment of not being able to go to college saddens him. Alan takes George to his lowest, when he drops to his knees with tears in his eyes and anguish on his face to his highest, as an overjoyed man who realizes his riches are his friends and family. His plaid suit is accompanied by an evergreen sweater vest that has him depicted as “everyman.”

Teresa Spencer, as radio personality Sally Applewhite, is also young and adult Mary Hatch. Spencer is as sweet as she is attractive playing Mary – George Bailey’s wife. As she delivers Mary’s lines, Spencer’s voice is lyrical and it’s fun to watch her expressions and lovely smile as she moves from Sally to Mary. Spencer also gets billing for sound effects along with Sally Boyett.

Both Spencer and Boyett are talented with their timing – slamming doors, dropping containers, and the hanging up the telephone. Spencer’s gestures are grandiose and well-warranted for both the radio show and the play. Her black plaid dress accented with red cuffs and a belt that is adorable with the white flowers the pin back her hair.

Nick DePinto is Harry “Jazzbo” Heywood who is also the voices of young and adult George’s Brother Harry, Bert, Clarence (Angel 2nd class), Sam Wainwright (Hee-Haw), Martini, Dr. Campbell, Charlie, Horace, Mr. Welch, Tommy, and the Sheriff. DePinto really shines in all these roles with distinctive voice changes. Clarence’s accent favors England whereas Mr. Martini is a tried and true transplant from Italy. DePinto as his radio personality is lanky in stature and suave in nature, with his slick hair style and well put-together black plaid (small print) suit and tie – sans the jacket.

Rob McQuay is announcer Freddie Filmore for the radio station and then transforms into Pharmacist Gower, Potter, Uncle Billy, Joseph (heavenly), Peter “Father” Bailey, Ernie, Old Man Collings, Ed, Pete, Nick, Bridge Keeper, Binky, and a cop. Whew! What a broad spectrum of talent McQuay brings to the stage. From kind man Mr. Gower, to grouchy Mr. Potter, to agitated Uncle Billy and tough guy Nick, McQuay’s voice changes are large and distinguished. At one point, he carries both sides of the conversation that shows his years of extraordinary experience. Donning a dark suit and red bow tie, McQuay’s radio personality is full of pride as he maneuvers around the stage and from character to character.

Director Jay D. Brock takes stage movement to a whole new level as the actors move in and out of the space, to addressing the audience, to the standing mics, and then to the sound effects table. Their elaborate movements are in sync and actionable at a high pace on the beautifully designed by Scenic Designer JD Madsen.

The back wall is a gray-teal accentuated with art deco design that is painted silver. There are on-air and applause signs that light up when needed. Center stage is the sound effects table covered in a red table cloth with dozens of sound effect items. The floor is painted with purple and gold. The entire set is nicely dressed for Christmas with lights, garland and wreaths for the radio show takes place on Christmas Eve.

Adam Mendelson’s lighting design is bright and cheery with shades of pinks and blues that sets the opening mood. As George’s life is mapped out and leads up to his dark moment, so does the lighting that includes a good lightning strike. Adding to that is a clash of thunder created by Sound designer Gregory Thomas Martin. The tech crew is comprised of seasoned professionals that work well together to help make a solid show become a masterpiece.

 Kevin Brown, Rob McQuay, Nick DePinto, Sally Boyett, and Teresa Spencer. Photo by Joshua McKerrow.
Kevin Brown, Rob McQuay, Nick DePinto, Sally Boyett, and Teresa Spencer. Photo by Joshua McKerrow.

Annapolis Shakespeare Company’s It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play is just the ticket for this holiday season. Fun, friendly, and full of joy, it makes for fine holiday entertainment.

Annapolis Shakespeare Company’s It’s a Wonderful Life, A Live Radio Play, is just the ticket for this holiday season. Fun, friendly, and full of joy it makes for good family holiday entertainment. Yes, there is the lesson that a man is not rich by money but who he surrounds himself with, and what a lovely message for the season. Happy Holidays!

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It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play plays through January 3, 2016 at Annapolis Shakespeare Company Studio – 111 Chinquapin Round Road, Suite 114, in Annapolis, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (410) 415-3513, or purchase them online.

RATING: FIVE-STARS-82x1555.gif

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Danielle Angeline
Danielle Angeline was bit by the theater bug when she took a set design class in college. Her instructor reminded her of George Michael (Got to Have Faith). She then decided to major in technical theater and design at Towson State University. After graduating, this led her to work at Universal Studios Florida and the Carnival Cruise Lines as a stage manager, group coordinator and arcade manager. Returning home to Maryland, her career transitioned from CAD work to a technical writer/trainer for the past 15 years. During that time, Danielle volunteered as an Information Specialist with the Smithsonian. Museum assignments included Natural History, Portrait Gallery, and the Castle. She is now pursuing her theatre/arts career again as a writer and dedicating herself to her greatest passions: theatre, writing, family & friends, painting, tasty & innovative cuisine and her cats: Cheyanne and Sierra.