Traverse City Record-Eagle

December 6, 2013

OTP gets in the spirit with 'Wonderful Life'

BY NATHAN PAYNE npayne@record-eagle.com
Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Jill Beauchamp has watched the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” every Christmas season since she was young.

The iconic holiday film is a favorite of her husband who insists on a viewing each year. So, when Beauchamp caught wind of an adapted production of the film planned for Old Town Playhouse’s main stage, she jumped at an opportunity to direct the play.

“It’s a big Christmas card to the community,” Beauchamp said. “I love ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.’ When I heard it was five actors, I said this is the way to do it.”

The adaptation of the script whittled a cast of 45 to just five who spend the entire play onstage, acting out the performance as a live radio show.

“It’s like you are a studio audience at a 1946 radio production,” Beauchamp said. “Everyone is on stage the whole time.”

It’s the first time the playhouse has taken on the play, she said.

The performance comes complete with a three-person sound effects crew that works onstage during the play, using only techniques and tools available in the 1940s to augment the performance. There’s also a pianist on stage playing a soundtrack for the performance.

The sound crew overcame dozens of challenges and found creative ways to 42 noises needed at 104 points during the play. They chased through resale shops and garage sales to dig up equipment that makes just the right sounds.

They came up with breaking glass sounds made by hitting a box of wind chime tubes with a glass cube and creaky floors made from wood attached to deformed door hinges, according to the show’s producer, June Neal.

But the actors who have bitten off multiple roles each is what makes the show, Beauchamp said.

She knows every line in the film from decades of repetitive viewing.

“I have an amazing George who is going to make everybody forget Jimmy Stewart ever existed,” Beauchamp said. “I love the idea of an actor having all of these challenges. I know when my actors are wrong.”

If you’d like to go see the Old Town Playhouse production of “It’s a Wonderful Life,” tickets cost $25 for adults and $14 for children. There are performances Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. Next week’s performances, Dec. 12-14, are at 7:30 p.m. and Dec. 15 at 3 p.m.

You can buy tickets by calling 947-2210 or by going to www.oldtownplayhouse.com.