WFAL Is On the Air

When I first read about the Falcon Theatre's production of "It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Drama" I will say I was exited. I had never been to see a Falcon Theatre show, but was delighted to attend the special preview production last Thursday night.

I must preface my take on this production with the simple fact that I fully enjoy old time radio and specifically radio plays. I was privileged to have attend the Music Hall Thanksgiving edition of the Prairie Home Companion, so when the invite to attend this blogger preview came, I jumped at the chance. I have high standards when it comes to radio plays, so keep that in mind.

Right off the bat, this venue fit perfectly for a radio play. The Monmouth Theater is small space that has the feel of what I picture a small radio station in Newport circa 1948 would have been like. When you enter you are in the studio audience of a working radio station, complete with pre-show radio with shorts that sounded specially crafted for this production.

One of my favorite methods in theatre includes a show before a show. There was no traditional curtain speech. The radio players just filed on stage in character just as they would have before the radio broadcast. The small stage was crammed like a tiny radio studio would have been with the sound affects team, announcer, pianist/organist, actors, program director and a set of Andrews Sisters style singers.

The set itself was simple and inviting because it included the entire building, including a nice effect of one of the actors hanging a coat on a wall outside of main stage area when he enter via the lobby of the theatre.

The sound effects were very well done and very authentic. The team worked diligently and their timing was spot on. The only problem with sound came during scenes where the main actors were in a crowd scene. The background crowd noise overpowered the main dialog often.

The costumes looked great. Everyone was in period dress, down to the ladies thick stockings and men in three-piece suits. The make-up on the ladies was spot on and the hair styles fit nicely.

I do think there are a few elements of the performances that need to be polished. The flow of the radio show was not done well. I think the transitions between scenes were at times off. It appeared the actors were following the direction from the program director very literally. This may have been a little slower for this early performance, so I would hope it would be more crisp after a couple more run-throughs. The text of the story is also tough to compare with my impressions from the movie. The scrip is a condensed version of the movie, which was common practice for radio of the time. I think the spirit of what it would have sounded like on the radio came through, but I think the two leads would have been better served by breaking with that style and instead could have used a little more passion as compared to the really great performances of the 4 supporting actors who all have great voices and showed great range.

Overall I enjoyed the production and I think its a great way to celebrate the holiday season. I really encourage everyone to head out to one of the remaining performances:
December 7th 3PM
December 12th 8PM
December 13th 8PM
December 14th 3PM

The show takes place at Monmouth Theatre
636 Monmouth St.
Newport, KY 41071

Tickets: $15, $12 seniors and students