Go back in time with a live radio play

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When was the last time you took your parents or your grandparents out for something?
A Dec. 19-21 live radio play to be performed at 49 Franklin may just be the perfect occasion during the holiday season.
Step back in time, at 49 Franklin’s Mystic Theater, where you’ll attend a live performance of a radio show, playwright Joe Landry’s “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play.” It’s an adaptation of Frank Capra’s beloved American Christmas fantasy comedy-drama film, with special music arrangements by Kevin
Connors. See the performance of the radio actors and sound effects technician that everyone from coast to coast will listen to in their homes gathered around the radio.
Scot Grassette said the theater will double as a 1940s radio station, resembling a cocktail lounge, and people buying tickets to watch the play will serve as the live radio audience.
“Back in the day of live radio plays, they actually had a live audience so there was applause during a show,” Grassette said. “And that’s what we actually want to do: bring them back to the 1940s as if there was a real live show going out coast-to-coast.”
That’s why Grassette said he put extra time into making an ON AIR sign and an APPLAUSE sign that lights up at key moments in the play, prompting audience participation.
“When’s the last time you went to a show and had APPLAUSE signs telling you when to applaud?” he asked. “I never have.”
“Those old radio show studios were in rooms like this, that had live audiences, so that you could get the applause. There’s seating for 130 for each of the three shows,” noted Grassette.
Sharing the stage are five adults, three children, and an announcer. Combined, they’re playing 40 characters. The two lead characters, Stephen Penney as Jimmy Stewart’s George Bailey and Sara-Mae Parlin as Mary Hatch, have just one role; the rest of them are multiple characters.
The rest of the cast are Jen Foster as Violet Beck, Eric Schmersal as Mr. Potter, Zac Calden as Clarence the Angel, and children Amara Aiken as Zuzu Bailey, Braden Duguay as Young George and Virginia Owings as Young Mary.
49 Franklin’s play will last about as long as the movie at nearly 90 minutes. There will be two acts separated by a 15-minute intermission. It is the performing arts venue’s third Christmas play in three years. The first was “Best Christmas Pageant,” and the second was “Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown!”
Showtimes are 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Dec. 19 and 20, and 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 21. The doors open 90 minutes before each show for pub food and a cash bar. Tickets for the play cost $15 each and can be purchased at Bartash’s and All That Jazz in Rumford and online at www.49Franklin.com.

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