An oil lamp

It’s a Wonderful Life – A Live Radio Play

by Joe Landry

November 29th - December 30th

Adults – $40.00

Students – $25.00

The performance runs two hours including a ten minute intermission.

Oil Lamp Theater invites you to kick off the holiday season with their presentation of Joe Landry’s It’s a Wonderful Life — A Live Radio Play. This heartwarming classic is a show within a show. It’s December 24, 1946 in Studio A at WBFR Radio, and a cast of six actors is preparing to present It’s a Wonderful Life live to the listening audience. With the help of only a sound-effects artist, the ensemble re-enacts the story of George Bailey, a young man whose dreams of traveling the world are thwarted by his sense of responsibility to the family business. Down on his luck, Bailey, compassionate yet disheartened, is at the end of his rope. He questions his purpose in life and considers ending it all. Just then, an angel arrives to show Bailey how the lives of those he loves would be affected if he were not around. The story’s message is profound and remains relevant for today’s audiences.

It’s a Wonderful Life – A Live Radio Play has become a holiday tradition at Oil Lamp – a tradition that audiences embrace enthusiastically as they’re swept up in the magic and whimsy of this timeless classic. Only seven actors bring the dozens of characters to life in a 1946 radio play — complete with sound effects – that tells the story of George Bailey, a young man whose troubles lead him to wish he’d never been born. He is visited by the angel Clarence who comes to earth on Christmas Eve to help George realize how many lives he has touched, just how blessed he has been, and how different the world would be if he’d never been there.

Oil Lamp Executive Director Keith Gerth again transforms the intimate Glenview theater space into the studio of New York radio station WBFR on Christmas Eve in 1946 for this warmhearted adaptation of the famous Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed film. But at Oil Lamp Theater, the magic isn’t only on the stage! Audiences will be captured by the tinsel-and-holly enchantment of a traditional Christmas from the moment they enter the theater. The tree is up in the lobby, holiday music is playing, a miniature train is chugging away… and of course, complimentary cookies, nuts, candy and hot chocolate are available for all!

This year’s Wonderful Life production – Oil Lamp’s seventh since the theater opened in Glenview – features Gabe Fries and Chelsea Rolfes as George and Mary Bailey. Tim Kough appears as the enthusiastic host and announcer for WBFR’s “Playhouse of the Air.” Tim also plays the villainous old miser Mr. Potter and other residents of Bedford Falls. Stephen Smith, another Wonderful Life veteran, returns as a variety of characters including George’s forgetful brother Billy, Mr. Gower the druggist, Ernie the cop, and more. Rachel Whyte and Travis Monroe Neese also bring to life several roles in the radio drama. Whyte lends her versatile voice and acting skills to every other female character in the show, ranging from a small child to the town siren. Neese portrays the saving angel Clarence, George’s brother Harry Bailey, Sam Wainwright, and others.

Rounding out the cast is sound effects artist Alecia Pagnotta who plays the sound engineer at WBFR. Pagnotta is entrusted with all the audio magic for this radio play. She adds a vital dimension to the show, using clever and surprising techniques to simulate ringing telephones, footsteps in the snow, breaking glass, chirping crickets, and much more – all performed live in front of the studio audience!.

This radio play of Wonderful Life closely follows the plot of the 1946 Frank Capra film. However, audience members experience the story through the unique lens of a live “golden age of radio” studio production, complete with flashing “applause” signs, Christmas carol sing-alongs, and clever commercial jingles performed by the cast.

But the opportunities to interact with the Wonderful Life experience don’t end there! Every audience will also have the chance to write and send personalized “radiograms” to friends, family and loved ones listening at home (or in the theater), courtesy of the WBFR airwaves! Studio guests will have the opportunity to fill out a “Radiogram” message sheet before each show, and then hear that message read “live” by the WBFR announcer, from the stage during the show!

Here are just a few comments from Oil Lamp guests who have been a part of the Wonderful Life experience in years past:

“(The theater is) a lovely, intimate and warm setting for this holiday classic. Before the show sip hot cocoa, enjoy snicker-doodle cookies, watch a toy train and marvel at all the beautiful Christmas decorations. And this is before the show even starts! After the pre-show revelry it is time to sit down and watch a touching production of a 1940’s era live radio play of “It’s a Wonderful Life” and the fine production that it is.”

“What a delightful way to start the holiday season! The play was charming–filled with incredibly talented actors. And the lobby–Well, if that doesn’t get you into the holiday spirit, nothing will! There is a beautiful Christmas tree with bubbling lights, a train running around the entire bar area and complimentary Christmas cookies, hot chocolate and bowls of nuts and candy. Don’t miss this performance!”

“The theater is a delight. Everyone is personally welcomed in a homey setting. Actors all were excellent and watching sound effects for this play was fun, too!”

Directed by Keith Gerth

Stage Manager – Helen O’Brien

Jake Laurents

portrayed by

Gabe Fries

Freddie Filmore

portrayed by

Tim Kough

Harry "Jazzbo" Heywood

portrayed by

Travis Monroe Neese

Sally Appelwhite

portrayed by

Chelsea Rolfes

Bud Collyer

portrayed by

Stephen Smith

Lana Sherwood

portrayed by

Rachel Whyte

Sound Effect Specialist

portrayed by

Alecia Pagnotta


portrayed by

Danny Ferenczi


portrayed by

Taylor Murphy