Center Stage is presenting It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play, adapted by Joe Landry, with performances November 18 to December 21, 2014. Opening night is Nov. 25. Center Stage is located at 700 North Calvert Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21202. For more information, visit centerstage.org or call 410.332.0033.
It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play combines Frank Capra’s beloved holiday film with the golden age of radio. Set in a 1940s radio studio (and through story-telling, Bedford Falls), the production features a live sound effects artist and five actors who play every character in the film. Audience members are swept up in the post-World War II era, experiencing the magic of It’s a Wonderful Life just as a real 1947 studio audience did when Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed performed the script live over the air shortly after its Academy Awards nominations were announced.
The holiday show is the third mainstage production in Center Stage’s 2014/15 Season, following runs of epic play Amadeus and rock musical Next to Normal.
“It’s a Wonderful Life is lining up to be another wonderful family show for the holidays,” Artistic Director Kwame Kwei-Armah says. “The show fits nicely into our iconic season this year — from Mozart to Marley.”
New York-based Nelson T. Eusebio III directs Center Stage’s It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play. He has served as the artistic director of Leviathan Lab, an Asian American creative studio, and is a founder of Creative Destruction, a New York City-based theater collective. He has a Masters of Fine Art in Directing from the Yale School of Drama and has directed shows throughout the country, including It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play in North Carolina last year.
“The movie lives in three places — in the film itself, it lives in our audience’s memory of the film and it also lives in the live event we’re creating here,” Eusebio says. “The key is not to imitate the film, but to take the heart of it, so it triggers the audience’s memory, it invokes it, and finally it allows us to inspire from that.”
The five actors playing all of the roles in the adaptation of Capra’s script are making their Center Stage debuts with It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play.
Joseph McGranaghan, who has played on stage such iconic characters as Hamlet and Ichabod Crane, plays George Bailey in Center Stage’s production. McGranaghan’s New York credits include Thalassa at The Workshop Theatre Company, Our God’s Brother at Storm Theatre, and others. His regional credits include New Voices Festival at Bucks County Playhouse, Noises Off at Clarence Brown Theatre and You Can’t Take It With You at Asolo Rep.
Playing the role of George’s wife Mary is Chiara Motley, who was last seen as Irene Adler in Sherlock Holmes: The Great Adventure at Arts Center of Costal Carolina. Other credits include Othello (Desdemona), Richard III (Lady Anne) and A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Helena) at Seattle Shakespeare Company. Her voice can be heard on the “Her Interactive Nancy Drew” video games.
Eileen Rivera voices multiple characters from Capra’s script, including George and Mary’s daughters and Bedford Falls flirt Violet, among others. Rivera has performed off Broadway in A Fable at Rattlestick, Beast at NYTW and Dogeaters at The Public. She has appeared on “Law & Order: Criminal Intent,” and co-produced and acted in a handful of short films: Mildred, Daughter of Venus, The Barrelman Caper, INS & Outs (Grand Prize Winner, 2013 AAFL 72-Hour Shootout).
Pun Bandhu plays George’s guardian angel Clarence and slips into Italian, Brooklyn and Chinese accents and others as radio performer Harry “Jazzbo” Heywood in It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play. Bandu performed with Cynthia Nixon in Wit on Broadway, and his film credits include Michael Clayton, Burn After Reading, Late Phases, Stephen King’s A Good Marriage and The Judge. His TV credits include “The Good Wife,” “Without a Trace,” “Elementary,” “Law and Order, Criminal Intent,” “Conviction,” “Law and Order SVU,” “Body of Proof,” “White Collar” and “Nurse Jackie” among others. Regional theater work includes McCarter Theatre’s The Bells (Theresa Rebeck World Premiere, dir. Emily Mann) and TheatreWorks’s Yellow Face (David Henry Hwang Regional Premiere).
As the radio announcer Freddie Fillmore voicing various It’s a Wonderful Life characters, including Mr. Potter and Uncle Billy is veteran New York City actor Ken Krugman. His credits include Broadway productions and national tours of Les Miserables, Candide, Jersey Boys, Dirty Rotten Scoundrel, Titanic and the Tony Award-winning revival of Assassins. He has been seen on TV in “Blue Bloods,” “Royal Pains,” “Law & Order,” “Hope & Faith,” “Chappelle’s Show” and “Late Show with David Letterman”.
Anthony Stultz joins the cast of It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play as the sound effects specializing foley artist. He has done sound design for Gertrude Stein SAINTS and For The Birds, and worked as a musician in Seven Guitars. He has a degree in recording studies and classical guitar performance from Butler University.
The creative team includes set design by Michael Locher, costume design by Alixandra Gage Englund, lighting design by Burke Brown, sound design by Sarah Pickett with casting by Stephanie Klapper, stage manager Laura Smith, assistant stage manager Captain Kate Murphy, and production dramaturg Gavin Witt.
It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play is made possible by T. Rowe Price, with additional support from Miles and Stockbridge, PC . Center Stage is supported by a grant from the Maryland State Arts Council (MSAC), an agency dedicated to cultivating a vibrant cultural community where the arts thrive. An agency of the Department of Business and Economic Development, the MSAC provides financial support and technical assistance to nonprofit organizations, units of government, colleges, and universities for arts activities. Funding for the MSAC is also provided by the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency. Center Stage’s 2014-15 Season is made possible by Season 52 presenting sponsor M&T Bank. Maryland Public Television is a Media Partner for Center Stage’s 2014-15 Season.
ABOUT CENTER STAGE – Under the leadership of playwright, actor, and director Kwame Kwei-Armah OBE (Artistic Director) and national arts leader Stephen Richard (Managing Director), Center Stage is an artistically driven institution committed to engaging, entertaining, and enriching audiences through joyous and bold performance. Hailed by The Wall Street Journal as “a model of what regional theater can and should be,” Center Stage has, for more than 50 years, dedicated itself to exploring new works and bringing classics to life. This rich history is marked by critically acclaimed new works that have shaped the American theater; from the Tony Award-winning The Triumph of Love to world premieres such as Miss Evers’ Boys by David Feldshuh and On the Verge by Eric Overmyer. In 2013, Center Stage’s unprecedented presentation of the Tony Award-winning Clybourne Park in repertory with the world premiere of Kwei-Armah’s Beneatha’s Place sparked dialogue, drew international media attention and became the subject of a nationally broadcast PBS documentary, “A Raisin in the Sun Revisited: The Raisin Cycle at Center Stage.” With its signature focus on civic and community engagement, Center Stage, The State Theater of Maryland, enters its second 50 years with a commitment to exploring how art and entertainment communicate in the 21st century and to igniting conversation in Baltimore and beyond.
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Lia Chang is an actor, a performance and fine art botanical photographer, and an award-winning multi-platform journalist. Lia starred as Carole Barbara in Lorey Hayes’ Power Play at the 2013 National Black Theatre Festival in Winston-Salem, N.C., with Pauletta Pearson Washington, Roscoe Orman, and made her jazz vocalist debut in Rome Neal’s Banana Puddin’ Jazz “LADY” at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe in New York. She is profiled in Jade Magazine.
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