It’s A Wonderful Life radio play in Seneca Falls

Seneca Community Players has been entertaining visitors to the It’s A Wonderful Life Festival with their one hour long adaptation of Lux radio theatre’s broadcast Merry Christmas, George Bailey!, bringing to life the characters George Bailey, Mary Hatch, Mr Potter, Uncle Billy, Clarence and the rest of the residents of “Bedford Falls” off and on for 16 years. This weekend is no different. Ever since 1936, when Lux Radio Theatre moved from NY to the west coast to adapt motion pictures into one-hour radio shows performed before a live studio audience, every broadcast began with those compelling words: Lux presents Hollywood! The show became the most popular dramatic anthology series on radio, broadcast for more than 20 years. The broadcasts, which often featured stars of the original film productions, was hosted by a fictional producer who was at one time played by Cecil B. DeMille, and later William Keighly. Another fictional character was Libby Collins, who as a “Hollywood reporter”, made the commercials for Lux Toilet Soap. Merry Christmas, George Bailey! is therefore a play within a play, in that local actors play the parts of 1947 actors who are in turn performing characters from the Christmas classic film It’s a Wonderful Life in a radio drama. Seneca Community Players has adapted the original Lux Radio Theatre version of It’s a Wonderful Life, as it was originally broadcast on March 10, 1947, complete with sound effects, live organ music and the trademark commercials.Over the years more than 150 actors and three different directors have delivered this gift to Seneca Falls audiences. Jim MacNeal began the tradition in 1998 when the players presented it as a live radio broadcast on WSFW with Jim Schreck participating as the show’s announcer. MacNeal continued directing the show until his death, after which Aaron Issacs picked up the reins for a couple of years. At the request of the IAWL committee in 2010, SCP gave new life to the play and characters with director Becky Bly, who has directed ever since. Thousands of audience members have enjoyed watching this snapshot of radio and movie history. Even the real Zuzu from the movie, Karolyn Grimes, has stopped in to seen the production. For the past four years, Seneca Community Players has added to the fun by sending actors playing characters from the movie onto Fall Street during the It’s a Wonderful Life festival.“This year has been a unique challenge as we have needed to double cast the lead parts to ensure we have characters playing on the street at the same time the play is on stage.” Bly said, “Luckily we have two excellent actors who can play the part of George Bailey, Jimmy Stewart’s character from the movie. The cast includes:Pamela Bryan as Stella McNamaraSeth Kennedy as Mr. Potter, William Keighley, Bridgekeeper,Ernie the Cab Driver & Bert the CopPatrick Fegley as John Milton Kennedy, Nick the Bar Owner,Ernie the Cab Driver & JosephJim Bero as Mr. Potter, Bridgekeeper & Nick the Bar OwnerStephen Beals as Clarence & John Milton KennedyPete Saracino as Clarence & Mr. WelchPaul Wenderlich as Mr. Gower & Mr. MartiniCarl Webster as Uncle Billy, Pop Bailey & Sam WainrightCraig Simmons as Bert the Cop, Joseph & Mr. WelchBrad Backman as George BaileyGreg McPherson as George BaileyMariah Ernhout as Mary Hatch BaileyChristina Pisanello as Mary Hatch BaileyEileen Okolowicz as Mrs. Hatch & TillyFran Wenderlich as Mrs. Bailey & Doris the TellerMarilla Lipker as Violet Bic & Susan BlanchardRachel Weil as Libby CollinsMadison Tyler – ZuzuZachery Hilton – PeterAnnie Bachman – Piano/OrganRachel Weil & Pam Bryan – Sound EffectsBecky Bly – Director Refreshments of Hot Drinks and Donuts will be available prior to the start of the show as there is no intermission.Merry Christmas, George Bailey! can be seen at the “Bedford Falls Bijou Theatre” 115 Fall Street, Lower Level. Show dates & ticket prices: Thursday Dec. 12 @ 7pm, – $6 Saturday Dec. 14 @ 6pm – $8, Sunday Dec. 15 @ 1pm – $6. Tickets can be purchased at WomanMade Products 91 Fall Street in Seneca Falls or by phone 315-568-9364.

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