Wednesday, December 8

Spotlight PLayers: It's a Wonderful Life! A Live Radio Play

It's a Wonderful Life! A Radio Play
 As I've mentioned before, the offerings in Indy this holiday season seem to have more oomph and pizzazz. Each has impressed me with the extra spirit and effort to take it up a notch. This weekend I found a traditional Christmas story offered without flying creatures, choirs or sequins and, instead, shines in its simplicity.

Spotlight Players, a community theater 11 years strong, is located in Beech Grove, on the south side of Indy, appropriately enough on Main Street. It's a Wonderful Life, has been seen by us on stage and screen too many times to count. But have you heard it?

Dennis Forkel as Clarence the Angel
Audience members are sitting inside a 1940s radio station during a "live" radio broadcast of the Frank Capra story about George Bailey, portrayed by Jim Carrey look alike Josh Ramsey, a man who has lost sight of why he is important in the world and an angel named Clarence (Dennis Forkel) who helps Bailey in order to earn his wings.

Directed by Jim La Monte, the show moves along at a rapid pace as the radio station actors leap from their chairs to perform various characters from the storyline, many taking on (as would be necessary for a radio show) numerous roles.
Schlatter and Ramsey
While waiting, the radio actors knit, whisper to each other, sip coffee and read over their lines.Watching the radio performers as they come and go about their normal lives, standing at the mic or props table gives one a sense of nostalgia for the Golden Age of Radio.

Dozens of items line the table with an equal amount on the floor surrounding it. Tubs of water for the jumping-in-the-lake scene, oven grates for noisy entrances and water glasses for Martini's bar scene are just a few of the innovative ways to create the necessary sounds for the radio listeners.

Woody Rau
Although the cast is filled with numerous splendid actors, young and old, I must, as always narrow it down a little.

Stepping into the Gotta Go spotlight this week are Woody Rau, Sarah Latimer and Patrick Becker with the advice to take special notice of young Grace Long portraying ZuZu with the ability of a veteran stage performer.

Rau shines brightest while portraying both characters during the rapid-paced conversation between incompetent Uncle Billy and mean, money-grubbing banker Mr. Potter, played by Lionel Barrymore in the 1946 film version. He switches personalities and mannerisms as quickly as Sally Fields in Sybil(1976).

Patrick Becker and Tim Latimer
Latimer portrays coquettish Violet who "likes all the boys," Mama Bailey and others, switching from young girl to senior citizen without effort.

Becker not only is one of two people handling sound effects, props and slamming doors as needed, he also portrays three characters and chimes in for crowd scenes. His portrayal of alternate-reality Nick is a delight to watch and hear.

I say 'hear' because I recommend closing your eyes during the show at least once to better understand what a family in the 1940s heard while gathered around the golden glow of the radio dial, enraptured with the story unfolding over the airwaves.
Bottom Line: It's a Wonderful Life! A Live Radio Play by Spotlight Players is a delightful version of a traditional Christmas show deserving to be your newest tradition beginning this year.

Photo credits: Spotlight Players; Photo credits: Izzy Evans Website:

Elizabeth J. Musgrave is a syndicated columnist, travel writer and theater critic. Catch her as Indy’s Arts & Entertainment Adviser on 93 WIBC and follow her on Twitter @ejmusgrave1 and Facebook
Gotta Go is published in the following newspapers: South Sider Voice, Indiana Weekender, West Side Community News, New Palestine Reporter, West Indianapolis Community News, Pendleton Times Reporter and Fortville-McCordsville Reporter.

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