Harrison brings ‘Wonderful Life’ to stage – and radio

Actors in Harrison High School’s fall play, “It’s a Wonderful Life, a Live Radio Play” aren’t just cast in the memorable roles from the classic Frank Capra movie – they’re playing the actors as well.

It's a Wonderful Life
Stage hands Liz Pappas (left) and Grace Hawkes (right) consult with Zack Heger (George) and Bridget Smith (Mary) during “It’s a Wonderful Life, a Live Radio Play.”

Audiences at the 7:30 p.m. performances on December 2 and 3 will see a 1940s-style radio show, complete with stand-up microphones and a table of Foley artists who will recreate the sounds of a door closing, footsteps, and more.

“It’s not a stage production, it’s a live radio show,” said Sue Cobb, who directs the show with her husband, Dean. “The illusion will start as soon as people walk into the lobby.”

Zack Heger and Bridget Smith play George and Mary Bailey, and the actors who portray them in "It's a Wonderful Life, a Live Radio Play."
Zack Heger and Bridget Smith play George and Mary Bailey, and the actors who portray them in “It’s a Wonderful Life, a Live Radio Play.”

For the actors, creating that illusion meant first seeing “It’s a Wonderful Life,” which has become a holiday icon. It shares the story of George Bailey, a man who believes he has lost everything but learns how rich he is, thanks to a quirky guardian angel. Senior Darius Bonner plays Clarence Odbody, Angel 2nd Class.

It's a Wonderful Life
Darius Bonner and Faith Berry portray Clarence Odbody and Freddie Fillmore, and the actors who portray them, in “It’s a Wonderful Life, a Live Radio Play.”

“It’s challenging because immediately you have to shift your mindset into someone from the ’40s,” said Bonner, a senior. “You have to act as someone from the ’40s…different mannerisms, the way you carry yourself.”

It's a Wonderful Life
From left, Derek Williams, Nadia Saade, and Liz Fahling are Foley artists for “It’s a Wonderful Life, a Live Play.”

Each of the students created their own actor persona. They have to stay in character as the radio show scenes change, playing actors in the background and their “It’s a Wonderful Life” roles when they hit the microphones.

Senior Faith Berry found a real challenge in playing Freddie Fillmore, the radio show’s host. She said it helped to see the on-screen story.

“I think the point of the movie was to come to terms with the fact that we are 16- and 17-year-olds playing people who are playing characters,” she said. “It’s a lot.”

Still, she said, she has really enjoyed the show, and believes audiences will, too.

“I love it. It’s a really nice story, and I think we’re going to execute it well.”

All seats are $10; tickets will be available at the door and through the box office, 248-888-6274.

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