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Five Gifted Actors Play 43 Roles in It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play at Texas Rep

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The setup:

The perennially popular movie featuring Jimmy Stewart is recast, this time as a highly original radio play.

The execution:

The production is much more than audio, as we are at the art deco set of WBKR, a radio station featuring The Playhouse of the Air. In fact, it is filled with visual delights and theatrical nuances. The drama is richly textured, and the imaginative idea of writer Joe Landry to adapt the famed Frank Capra film into a radio play permits the inclusion of a great deal of humor.

We see the actors at work, in character and out, and often doubling as stagehands as they provide the sound effects of footsteps and doors slamming, with shoes and a miniature door. The timing is excellent for each of the five very gifted actors playing 43 roles.

Steven Fenley, Artistic Director of Texas Rep, plays the radio announcer Freddie Filmore and 14 other characters, and his thorough professionalism, charm and capacity to alter dramatically his voice and movement to suit the character are rewarding indeed.

Matt Tramel plays the actor reading the largely humorless George Bailey, and his intensity and conviction are just right for the part. Alan Hall plays 13 parts, all well, and Karen Schlag does the same for 11 parts. Lauren Dolk plays only two but they are important roles, and she makes them credible.

The pace is brisk (no dead air permitted, of course) and the sentiment of the movie emerges intact. It is ably directed by Steph Dewaegeneer, and the handsome set was designed by Trey Otis.

The verdict:

It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play is very funny and compelling theater, and, in fact, is wonderful itself.

The show runs through December 23 at Texas Repertory Theatre, 14243 Stuebner Airline Rd. For information and tickets, call 281-583-7573 or visit /www.texreptheatre.org.

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