Review: Wheaton Drama’s It’s a Wonderful Life Radio Show

Produced by:
Location: Wheaton Drama
Director: Sean Ogren

Earlier in December of 2012, a friend of mine and I went to Wheaton Drama to see a bunch of our friends in the holiday radio show “It’s a Wonderful Life”. When I say “a bunch” I mean I knew a fair number of the case right of the bat… (I know that is considered par for the course for me). Anyway what is different about this particular radio show was the addition of a children’s dance troupe from Geneva.

Before I move on here were some first impressions:
Acting: like
Singing: like
Choreography: meh
Staging: like
Sound Effects: love

One of the first things I noticed is that while the audience was trickling into the theatre, various members of the cast were already fully in character, interacting with the audience. It was strange having this sense of being transported into a different decade completely and feeling a sense of being part of the live audience for such a production.

Off to the side of the stage was a couple of tables that were set up for what it would appear to be the “sound effects” guys for the production. Helmed by R J Ogren and Peter Lemongelli, I knew instinctively that we were in for a real treat.

The radio program was hosted by Randy Knott (also known as Count Carl-Magnus in VTG’s A Little Night Music) who was cracking jokes towards the audience and the sound effect guys. However, who really stole the pre-show was Steve Schroeder and his antics of dinging a bell and pointing randomly “and you get wings” *ding* “and you get wings” *ding* “and you get wings”… well you get the idea. That damn guy keeps stealing the show no matter where he is at… but I digress.

Although this was suppose to be a one weekend production running from Friday thru Sunday… it is rumored that two shows were added (one on Thursday evening and another as a Saturday matinee) because all the other shows were close to, if not already sold out. Wow…

Thankfully my friend and I managed to obtain Saturday evening tickets and had a grand ole timing watching the radio show unfold.

After the host’s opening monologue, we were treated to the children’s dance troupe who were featured here and there throughout the course of the evening. Even though I did enjoy aspects of what the dance troupe had to offer, I did not feel that they added anything to the radio production. It had a sense of being disconnected to the radio show… which I understand that these are children and so forth… but somehow I had hoped to have a sense of the two seemingly separate productions to find a center point and since the primary production is indeed the radio show… I would have liked to have seen something that would tie into that.

The Jingle Sisters (on the other hand) did just that, in the sense of enhancing the experience as opposed to detracting from it. I enjoyed the bits (for the most part) where they were featured, as well as some of the “radio commercials” that they sang. Sometimes I had the sense of “are they done yet” but that is really my innate dislike of commercials in general… however, the fact that the “Jingle Sister” kept my attention for the most part was something.

The cast in all did a wonderful job in their vocal parts, there really wasn’t a weak voice in the bunch. I think the most entertaining point of it was when Steve Schroeder (who was voicing not only the Head Angel but also the primary antagonist) had two lines for the two different parts so close together he moved from one microphone to the other and changed voices with such ease.

While a few members of the cast were saying the Twelve Days of Christmas, instead of reciting the various gifts of the holidays (aside from the Five Golden Rings) the sound effect guys filled in the blanks… my friend and I agreed that after a while we just watched the sound effects guys do their things because it far more entertaining to watch than the singing itself. Needless to say the sound effect guys stole the show for us at that moment.

All in all (aside from the dance troupe) I rather enjoyed the production… then again I do have a hidden love of radio shows as evidence of my trips to see Those Thrilling Days of Yesteryear and my late night listening sessions with When Radio Was.

For the most part I would say that this production was a “hit”… and I look forward to see what else Wheaton Drama may have up their sleeves in future seasons.

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