That’s the headline from the New York Times review of our next show. You can probably guess what it’s called. But not everyone will know how it looks or sounds.
There are still a few people left on the planet who grew up with radio. Maybe they are now very old or their parents refused to put out for one of those television things. I count myself in this group, and I have no regrets. As a kid every afternoon I would get off the school bus, pour a glass of milk, reach in the jar for a couple of cookies, park myself in front of our console radio, and let a whole world come in. Such great vibrations, and so much to see there. When you heard a radio show you found yourself actually inside the story, far more so than when merely watching it—and really it was far more immersive even than Gravity in IMAX 3D. I was riding with Straight Arrow, sledding with Sgt. Preston, and hanging on the ranch with Sky King. You can’t go back there, alas.
Or maybe we can. What if we could not only hear a great radio show, but also see it? What if that show was one of the best known and most beloved of all holiday tales? What if it were It’s A Wonderful Life? And the gods of THEATREWORKS said yes, let it be so. Let there be Lux! Not just the light, but the Lux Radio Theatre—or at least something very much like it. Back in the 1940’s just after you made the movie, you brought the cast into a radio studio to read the script that would be broadcast live in front of a full audience. This is the basis of our new show, It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play written and adapted by Joe Landry. We are in love with it.
That’s partly because along with everyone else we love the movie, which we have seen dozens of times and usually around this time of year. Most of you will remember the story of George Bailey of Bedford Falls, a very decent guy who grows up and marries in his small town and then falls into hard times and despair because he has never fulfilled any of his big dreams. Thank heavens the angel Clarence Odbody has been dispatched to save the day, teach his student quite a lesson, and maybe get those wings he has been wanting for more than 200 years. Like that other great Christmas classic, A Christmas Carol, this is a story full of charm and humor and vividly etched characters. And like the Dickens tale, this is a tale full of dark places even as it moves to the light. It’s not merely a story—it is almost a ritual, something you want to experience every holiday season and feel better for having gone there again. Like all real rituals, this one is life renewing.
The lovely and simple genius of this show is that it makes a great movie into a great radio show we both hear and see. All the lines are there, all the scenes you know so well. Everything is familiar—yet everything is now fresh in this new context. It’s all much more intimate—because it is both radio and theatre. And don’t think for a moment this is just a watered down cheap five actor version of a rich and classic film. This show has new dimensions; it has tricks up its sleeve. The five actors are charming and terrific and required to be virtuosos, pulling rabbits and new characters out of their hats every few seconds. Mark Arnest, the wizard of sound and music, will produce magic right in front of your eyes and ears. Maybe it will snow.
This is ninety minutes of pure pleasure—we thought you could use some of that after Willy Loman’s last ride, with the days getting shorter now. I suggest you bring everyone you know and love. Bring them into Lux!
And there will be a few us who wouldn’t be sorry if about ten minutes into the show the power went out in the Bon Vivant Theater. Then the ushers would bring a candle or two on stage and the actors would have to huddle around their scripts and read them aloud in the dim light. In the darkness of old time radio we would then all see. But as it is, if everything goes as planned, you will have no choice but to see and hear--and smile. Somebody has to do it.