La PORTE — Don't touch that dial, theater fans — the La Porte Little Theatre's broadcast of a beloved American Christmas classic is coming up next.
The community theater will debut its production of "Merry Christmas, George Bailey!" — a radio play adaptation of the famed 1946 film "It's a Wonderful Life" — this Friday.
The show will run from Dec. 6-8 and 13-15, with Friday performances starting at 7:30 p.m. and 2 p.m. on Sundays. This upcoming Saturday show will begin at 7:30 p.m., while the Dec. 14 performance will begin at 2 p.m.
Tickets cost $14 for adults and $12 for students and can be purchased online at laportelittletheatreclub.com or the theater box office before each performance.
"Merry Christmas, George Bailey!" is a staged version of the 1947 Lux Radio Theatre broadcast of "It's a Wonderful Life," the Academy Award-nominated film starring James Stewart. Like the movie, the radio play centers on the story of George Bailey, a banker and family man residing in the fictional New York town, Bedford Falls.
Giving up his youthful dreams of traveling the world to support his family, Bailey encounters a spate of bad luck and contemplates committing suicide on Christmas Eve. His actions prompt a guardian angel named Clarence to intervene, who shows him the impact his life has had on his hometown.
"It's such a wonderful story," said Bonnie Quigley, who is directing the upcoming Little Theatre production. "Everyone can identify with George. He's just one of those characters — a timeless everyman."
For this telling of the Christmastime story, Quigley and her production team will transform the Little Theatre stage into a 1940s-era radio station, featuring a sound booth with large mounted clocks showing different time zones across the country. The 23 cast members will read their lines into the stand microphones at the front of the makeshift studio, just as if they were doing a live radio performance 70 years ago.
Keeping with the authentic broadcast feel, every single one of the radio play's sound effects will be done on-stage manually, Quigley said. The show will even feature short commercial breaks, with performers singing Christmas-themed advertisement jingles for several local businesses sponsoring the production.
The upcoming production will mark Quigley's third time helming the radio play, which returns to the Little Theatre for the first time since 2009, she said.
The director fell in love with the radio play nearly 20 years ago, after watching a televised version of it on PBS, she said. Quigley later got in touch with writer Jim MacNeal — a resident of Seneca Falls, the actual New York community Bedford Falls is based on — the creator of a stage version of the radio play, who gave her permission to use his script, she said.
Though actors will read directly from the script and will not have to worry about any technical choreography, that doesn't mean rehearsals have been a cakewalk, Quigley said.
"You still have to be engaged," she said. "If you miss a cue, it's dead air."
For actor Tim Murphy, who plays Bailey, the fact he doesn't have to memorize his lines allows him to focus his energy on other aspects of his character, he said.
"It allows actors to spend more time on delivery," Murphy said. "Since the hard part has already been done for us, we get to work on the nuance, innuendo, things like that."
The Little Theatre veteran — who played Scanlon in last year's production of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" — said he and the rest of the cast are excited to bring the story of George Bailey and Bedford Falls to life. "It's a Wonderful Life" and its message about faith and family are an essential part of American culture, especially around the holidays, he said.
"I love happy endings," Murphy said. "Anything with a positive message of redemption and hope is a story worth telling."
Those interested in learning more about this or other upcoming Little Theatre shows this season may call 362-5113 or visit laportelittletheatreclub.com.
Violet - Andrea Bertsch
Mrs. Thompson - Cindy Wilcox
Pop - David Mikolajczyk
Ernie - David Mikolajczyk
Charlie - David Mikolajczyk
Bridgekeeper - David Mikolajczyk
Man's Voice - Don Peiffer
Harry - J Swindell
Sam Wainright - J Swindell
Nick - J Swindell
Tommy - Jaren Swindell
Clarence - Jim Lampl
Mr. Gower - Joe Watterson
Ed - Joe Watterson
Horace - Joe Watterson
Mr. Welch - Joe Watterson
Joseph - John Watterson
Young George - Joseph Pray
Pete - Joseph Pray
Announcer - Ken Siegfried
Mr. Carter - Ken Siegfried
Mary - Kortney Brennan
ZuZu - Lucy Murphy
Mrs. Hatch - Monique Fredline
Tilly - Monique Fredline
Janey - Natalie Gartland
Burt - Rick Henderson
Uncle Billy - Rick Henderson
Martini - Rick Henderson
Mother Bailey - Susie Richter
Woman - Susie Richter
George - Tim Murphy
Mr. Potter - Ken Siegfried
Piano - Donovan Diedrich