It's another holiday season, and that means another Bucks County Playhouse production of a Joe Landry holiday classic. This time, it's a reprise of 2012's It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play. Though some of the credits have changed, traditionalists needn't fear. Rob Bissinger's set, with backdrop highlighting important Bedford Falls landmarks, and Nicole Moody's warm costumes, the cranberry velvet and warm, woolen plaids, remain.
Broadway veteran Hunter Foster directs, and although the show lacks the shimmer of star power that American Idol's Justin Guarini brought last time, this cast carries with aplomb the spirit of George Bailey, guardian angel Clarence Odbody, and the rest of those friendly upstate neighbors.
Wayne Alan Wilcox, tall, with a wavy Jimmy Stewart hairdo and a hint of Stewart's vocal inflections, anchors the piece while his stagemates don and doff a flurry of characters and character-specific props. Maggie Lakis ties on an apron and serious demeanor as George's mom, then affixes a feathered hat and nasal whine as town floozy Violet Bick. Brandon Ellis shines in a whiplash one-man tussle between restaurateur Giuseppe Martini and aggrieved husband Mr. Welch while Whitney Bashor channels her inner Donna Reed and Kevin Pariseau rotates through the script's elderly gentlemen, including Henry Potter, the richest and cruelest man in town.
Garth Kravits mans the Foley table, knocking, whirling, and ringing a number of instruments meant to indicate doors opening, wind blowing, and birds twittering. The other cast members occasionally fill in as well, though some of these fill-ins are sloppier with a bell or bowl than others, and the sound work is overall less crisp than in previous years.
However, that's a minimal gripe in a warm, surprisingly engrossing production. (Surprising because, after all, how many times in one wonderful lifetime can a person be expected to want to watch this story unfold?) In what might be the show's finest moment, when Clarence takes George on that infamous tour of Bedford Falls minus the elder Bailey boy, Foster has the actors drop their scripts, move away from their microphones - remember, this is supposed to be a radio play - and engage fully with this fantasy sequence. It's a lovely way to toy with Bucks County's audience and to bring this production alive.
It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play
At Bucks County Playhouse, 70 S. Main St., New Hope. Through Dec. 27.
Information: 215-862-2121 or www.BCPTheater.org.