It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play 

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There's one mistake in American Theater Company's elegant, playful, deeply moving production. Playwright Joe Landry cleverly adapts Frank Capra's classic 1946 film as a period radio broadcast complete with sponsor plugs, incidental musical accompaniment, and live sound effects. Director Marty Higginbotham's cast strikes just the right balance between self-conscious hokeyness and heartfelt sentiment. And without borrowing anything from Jimmy Stewart, performer James Leaming turns the spiritual collapse and ultimate revival of small-town dreamer George Bailey into a harrowing ordeal. But at the end the cast leads the audience in a brief sing-along, and if the lump in your throat is half the size of the one I developed, you'll just manage to gurgle. Through 12/31: see www.chicagoreader.com for complete schedule. Through 12/18: Thu-Fri 8 PM, Sat 5 and 8:30 PM, Sun 3 PM, American Theater Company, 1909 W. Byron, 773-929-1031, $10-$30. + The company performs its cabaret show 1940's Holiday Radio Spectacular Tue 12/13, 7:30 PM. $15.

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