Pentacle presents “It’s a Wonderful Life” through radio broadcast

Pentacle Theatre is hosting a live radio performance of “It’s a Wonderful Life” in December. (Courtesy/ Pentacle Theatre)

Debbie Neel thinks the Christmas classic “It’s a Wonderful Life” is an inspirational story that’s relevant to living through a pandemic.

In the story, George Bailey is a dreamer who has great plans for his life.

“Everybody in the world had great plans for their lives until the pandemic hit and then everybody had to stop and that’s kind of what happened to George in a bit of a different way,” the director said.

From Dec. 3 to 18, Pentacle Theater will perform “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play.”

In the show, Pentacle Theatre becomes a 1946 radio studio where a group of actors and sound artists perform a live broadcast that follows Bailey as he considers his future on a fateful Christmas Eve.

Clarence, a guardian angel, helps Bailey realize how different the world would be if he’d never been born.

“I think that’s what a lot of us suffer from. We don’t realize how our lives touch other people. Even in small ways,” Neel said.

There are seven actors on stage that bring more than 40 different characters to life.

The audience in the theater becomes the live radio audience.

During a weekday rehearsal, actors used an old milk tin filled with water to make the sound of George’s brother, Harry Bailey, falling into the ice.

Other sound effects include heels clopping and engines revving.

“We have some fun things for people to watch to see how sound effects are made,” Neel said. “In the days of radio, the radio audience listening at home had to rely on all those sounds to understand what was going on, where the scenes changed, those kinds of things.”

She said they chose the radio format because it could easily be transitioned to virtual performances should there be a Covid outbreak.

The shows run from Dec. 3 to 18 and performances start at 7:30 p.m. at 324 52nd Ave. N.W. There are two Sunday matinees which start at 2 p.m. on Dec. 5 and 12.  

On Dec. 9, the performance will be interpreted by a team of certified ASL interpreters.

All audience members must provide proof of vaccination or a negative PCR test taken no more than 72 hours before the performance and must wear a mask at all times while at Pentacle Theatre.

Tickets cost $25 and can be purchased online at tickets.penatacletheatre.org.

Frontline healthcare workers and people who hold an Oregon Trail Card are eligible for a discount.

Correction: This article originally misspelled Debbie Neel’s last name. Salem Reporter apologizes for the error.

Contact reporter Saphara Harrell at 503-549-6250, [email protected] 

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