Marin Theatre Company continues its 2012/13 Season with a family friendly production of It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play, which runs during the holiday season from November 23 to December 16. Jon Tracy directs Joe Landry's live radio play adaptation of Frank Capra's film It's a Wonderful Life. Opening night is on Tuesday, November 27.
"It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play is our first holiday celebration of family, friends and community in nearly 20 years," artistic director Jasson Minadakis said. "I can't wait to share this heartwarming tale of hope with Mill Valley and our extended community in Marin and beyond. The whole theater is going to be awash with the holiday spirit from the lobby to the theater itself. I'm delighted to welcome director Jon Tracy back for his first main stage production. He has an exciting festive vision for this timeless classic."
It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play transposes the cinematic classic (and holiday television tradition) to the theater by staging the story as if it was a live radio broadcast in front of a studio audience. Five actors perform the voices of dozens of characters while creating foley sound effects. As in the movie, everyman George Bailey must learn that "no man is a failure who has friends" (and a little divine intervention), when he must face off against local robber baron (and all around curmudgeon) Henry F. Potter. MTC invites its audiences to arrive at least 20 minutes early for preshow festivities.
The play is adapted from the film It's a Wonderful Life, directed by Frank Capra (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, It Happened One Night) and starring actors Donna Reed and James Stewart. Premiering at The Globe Theatre in New York on December 20, 1946, and going into general release on January 7, 1947, the film was the first produced by Capra and Samuel J. Briskin's independent motion picture Production Company Liberty Films. It's a Wonderful Life is based on Philip Van Doren Stern's unpublished short story The Greatest Gift (1939), which came to the attention of Hollywood in 1943 after Van Doren Stern enclosed 200 copies of the story with his Christmas cards. The film's eventual distributor RKO Radio Pictures optioned the story for $10,000 as a vehicle for actor Cary Grant, but, after three versions of the script were shelved, the rights to produce the film (and the three unsatisfactory scripts) were sold to Capra and Liberty for the original option price.
Contrary to popular myth, the film was not a flop when it premiered. Though it received mixed reviews in the press, it finished 26th in box office revenues out of over 400 features released in 1947, was voted as the fourth most popular motion picture of 1947 by the film fan magazine Photoplay and was nominated for five Academy Awards (1946) including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor. Capra won the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture Director for the film. The popularity of It's a Wonderful Life led to a number of adaptations for live radio broadcasts, including both CBS's Lux Radio Theater and The Screen Guild Theater in 1947, NBC's Screen Director's Playhouse in 1949 and ABC's The Screen Guild Theater in 1951. All of the broadcasts featured Reed (except in 1949) and Stewart reprising their roles from the film.
It's a Wonderful Life is regarded as a classic American film – the United States Library of Congress selected the film for preservation in its National Film Registry in 1990. The movie also tops the American Film Institute's list of the 100 most inspiring films of all time "100 Years...100 Cheers" and remains near the top of AFI's list of the 100 greatest American movies of all time "100 Years... 100 Movies" (#11 in 1998 and #20 in 2007). Film writers and historians attribute It's a Wonderful Life's high regard and continued popularity to the tradition during the 1970s and 80s of television and cable companies airing the movie repeatedly during the Christmas season. This practice was made possible because the film's copyright lapsed in 1974 and the film was assumed to be in the public domain. After Republic Pictures Corp. proved it held exclusive rights to It's a Wonderful Life, NBC network acquired exclusive television rights in 1993 and the practice of repeatedly airing the film has ended.