Eastridge Church hosts performances of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’

December 11, 2012

By Lillian O'Rorke

In 1947, The Lux Radio Theatre delivered “It’s a Wonderful Life” from the silver screen to living rooms across the country via the radio. Now, 65 years later, Eastridge Church is recreating the radio play for the Eastside community.

With performances Dec. 14 and 15 at the church’s 72,000-square-foot Issaquah facility, the performance is not short on theatrics.

“It’s got layers to it,” said director Steve Wright, of Sammamish. “It’s a radio show performing a movie, so we have a few things going on.”

He explained that because he and the church first staged the show last year, this Christmas they wanted to change it around by doing things like restaging, adding three times as much lighting effects and providing little surprises for the audience.

If you go

‘It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play’

  • 7 p.m. Dec. 14 -15
  • 2 p.m. Dec. 15
  • Eastridge Church
  • 24205 S.E. Issaquah-Fall City Road
  • Free, reserved tickets required
  • www.eastridgetoday.com/wonderful
  • 270-6300

Onstage, the radio’s transition chords of the past have been replaced with live musical numbers that relate to the scenes. Adding to the experience is an 18-piece orchestra. And, just as Lux advertised its soap to radio audiences, the performance includes bubbly commercial breaks.

“It’s kind of cool because the bubbles fall on you, and I don’t know how, but they use this bubble machine,” Ellexa Gerdes said.

The second-grade student at Samantha Smith Elementary School in Sammamish plays Zuzu Bailey, who famously says to her father, “Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings.”

Also, just like the original Lux radio studio production, the audience is a part of the show with its real-time reactions. Just in case people forget, an “applause” sign hung above the stage lights up.

A show within a show, the stage is the radio station studio, meaning that all two dozen local actors taking part have to remain onstage, even when it’s not their turn to be broadcast across the radio waves.

“You kind of have those two roles that you have to play: the person that’s relaxing and waiting for her next part and then the person that’s up at the microphone,” said Marianne Giberson, of Issaquah who plays several roles, including Violet Bick. “It’s taken a while to get that balance of what to do when you’re not at a microphone and kind of figure out how to interact with all the other actors onstage.”

But figuring out how to stay in the character of a 1940’s radio actor isn’t the only challenge. Regional actor Justin Beal, of Kirkland, plays the lead role of George Bailey. He said the odd part is getting used to speaking fast for the radio and avoiding “dead air.”

“That’s something that I’m not used to as an actor. As an actor, you want to take your time, make sure the audience hears what you are saying,” Beal said. “But apparently radio plays aren’t like that, and I just learned that … you have to go fast and bull right over the audience.”

While the show mirrors the movie, it is also a church production and includes a Christian message.

“It’s not over the top. It doesn’t point a finger at anybody,” Wright said. “It just points out something that the movie does. Here’s a man that has done wonderful things and what happens when he is at the end of his rope? He prays to God. That’s in the show, that’s in the movie.”

The director said he hopes everyone in the community will enjoy it as an entertaining event, however they celebrate the holiday season.

“People who are non-Christians, or people who choose not to go in that direction, will still have a great time coming to see this. They will see a nice theatrical event,” he said. “I want people to enjoy this performance as much as they enjoy the movie, because I sure do.”

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