Westerville Central offers classic with twist in 'It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Broadcast'

Marla K. Kuhlman
ThisWeek group
Westerville Central High School senior Becca Borton plays the character of Mary Hatch in “It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play,” to be presented Friday, Dec. 4, to Sunday, Dec. 6.

Everyone makes a difference.

That’s the message Westerville Central High School thespians will deliver through their production of “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play.”

The Westerville Central Warhawk Theatre Department will perform virtually from Friday, Dec 4, to Sunday, Dec. 6. Tickets and updated information are available online at wchstheatre.net.

The production, adapted by Joe Landry, is a holiday classic that comes to life as a live 1940s radio broadcast as a show within a show.

With the help of an ensemble that brings about a dozen characters to the stage, the story of George Bailey unfolds as he contemplates ending his life one Christmas Eve.

“We are going into an unknown holiday season, and ‘It's a Wonderful Life’ reminds us how we all make a difference in other people's lives, even if we don't know it,” said Stephanie Matushoneck, director. “We really wanted to get the kids back on stage but knew we had to not only be creative about it but also responsible. That's when the idea of a radio show came up.”

She said scenes don't involve a lot of sustained up-close interaction, and the students will wear clear masks for performances.  

Ben Wright, a sophomore, said what stands out is that it’s a "show within a show." 

“These characters presented are not those depicted in ‘It's a Wonderful Life’ but rather radio hosts who have their own backgrounds and lives behind this performance,” he said. “I believe overall it adds something to the show, a sense that everyone has their own life, even if we don't see it.”

Wright said the audience “takeaway” from the show is the idea that no matter how small one might think his or her life might be or how little an impact one thinks he or she has, that person always affects others.

“Everyone has their own wonderful life,” he said.

Aaron Dick, a junior, plays a lot of characters in the show, but the main one is Clarence, the guardian angel. 

“Clarence is sent down from heaven to save George's life and to help him realize how great life really is,” Dick said. “He can be a bit confused and nervous at times, but he is a very loveable character who just wants to help George out."

He said viewers really will like the nostalgic feeling they'll get from the production.

“They will also enjoy how unique a show like this is," he said. "t's not your typical action-packed play. The show is set in a radio station, and the actors read the play aloud for the whole world to hear on the radio broadcast, just like in the '40s.

"Radio is something that isn't used as much anymore, especially to tell stories, so it's enjoyable to see how this was done in the past. With live-action sound effects and lots of radio jingles, audiences of all ages will enjoy this story.”

Matushoneck said a few adult actors are in the production, including Jerry McSwords, a Central math teacher, and LauraLee Jingo, who taught the students about the reproduction of everyday sound effects.

Senior Becca Borton plays Mary Hatch, a romantic young girl who becomes a decisive, caring and self-sacrificing woman, mother and wife. 

“For a woman written in 1946, she takes considerable agency in the way she saves George over and over again,” Borton said. “This story in particular, I think, has aged so perfectly that it is entirely relevant to audiences today, both from the strong female role model and the heart-warming message.”

In an age when mental health is at an all-time low, she said, it is important to focus on the reasons to keep going.

“This story is special in that it offers these messages in such a clean package that even young children can understand it,” Borton said. “We all need to remember that there are always more hearts to touch, more people to love, more lives to change and more life to be lived.

“This show lets us know that if we just wait it out, good things will come again.”

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla