I t’s a Wonderful Life is as hardy a staple of Christmastime entertainment as A Christmas Carol and The Nutcracker. And recently the 1946 film has joined those two theatrical chestnuts on stage. Joe Landry’s adaptation of the Frank Capra classic is Shakespeare & Company’s midwinter treat. It takes place not in snowy Bedford Falls but in a New York City radio studio, where a live Christmas Eve special is going out to a studio audience and the nationwide network of listeners. The five actors, scripts in hand and dressed in the latest ’40s fashions, perform all 50 roles, punctuated by hokey commercials and bubbly jingles. There’s even an onstage sound-effects foley.
Unless you’ve been under a rock for the past 67 years, you know that It’s a Wonderful Life tells the irresistibly sentimental story of George Bailey, a small-town banker on the edge of ruin and the brink of suicide, who’s saved by a rumpled guardian angel. The script is an abbreviated transcription of the screenplay, and though the action is less expansive than onscreen, it’s in color.