Thursday, December 03, 2009

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

It’s a Wonderful Life: a Live Radio Play

Taproot Theater Company

(at North Seattle Community College, Stage One)

November 27-December 30, 2009

Tickets and Information

As much of Seattle now knows, the Greenwood neighborhood has been hit hard by fires in the past few months, arsons which have gutted some businesses and temporarily closed others. The 85th block was one of the hardest hit, including enough water and smoke damage to the Taproot Theater building to necessitate a massive renovation, and rendering it impossible for Taproot to stage their planned holiday show, Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Christmas Carol.

Grant Goodeve, Candace Vance and Eric Riedman. Photo by Erik Stuhaug, 2009.

Instead, Taproot has brought back a holiday show that had a successful run in 2006: their live radio play version of It’s a Wonderful Life, adapted by Joe Landry. This play is set on the Christmas-decorated soundstage of KTTC Studios in 1947, as a small group of actors give a live radio performance of this beloved film. At North Seattle Community College’s Stage One space, a small but cozy atmosphere presides from scenic designer Mark Lund, and the actors are outfitted by Sarah Burch Gordon in period styles with holiday flair—red and green dresses, sweater vests, and holly pinned to lapels.

We are treated as the live studio audience to this radio performance (complete with “on air” and “applause” signs that light up, thanks to lighting designer Jody Briggs). Director Karen Lund uses a fluid style, with her six actors rotating as easily in and out of the standing microphones as they do between their Wonderful Life scripts and their 1947 radio personas. Grant Goodeve plays George Bailey and Candace Vance plays his friend turned wife, Martha, both with a touching balance of humor and pathos. Jesse Notehelfer, Mark Lund, Alex Robertson and Eric Riedman play all the other parts, including the other Baileys, the slimy Mr. Potter and the classic angel Clarence. Special note must be given to Eric Riedman, who as well as playing small vocal parts, presides over an impressive plaid and tinsel-draped foley table behind the microphones, armed with shoes, bells, car horns and even a match – offering a full sensory experience when we hear the sound of the match strike, see and feel the sudden warmth of the fire and smell the wisp of smoke drifting across the scene.

This show is, in fact, a perfect choice for Taproot. Like George Bailey, the theater was put in a terrible situation through no fault of its own, and like Bedford Falls, the Seattle community has – and should continue to – step up to support the theater that has given back to the Greenwood neighborhood and the city as a whole. Look for Sherlock Holmes back again next holiday season, with all the original players from this year, and for Taproot’s new season beginning in January. Like George, this theater has deep roots in the community, and is coming back strong.

(Note: Every Wednesday performance, Taproot holds a talkback with the actors after the show. December 9th is a dinner and theater performance, where you can buy a dinner to go along with your show. For more information, please visit their website here!)

Review by Lia Morgan

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