Its not difficult to be taken in by the charms of "Its A Wonderful Life “ Live Radio Play."

The play is exactly as the title indicates “ a "live radio play." Actors stand before microphones and create the many residents in Bedford Falls from the classic Frank Capra film while sound technicians stand behind a table and recreate sounds of blowing snow and slamming doors.

This all takes place within a beautifully designed set by Brett Oliviera which transports both actors and audience to a recording studio at the WBFR radio station of 1946 New York City. It is quite nostalgic and reminiscent of Woody Allens "Radio Days" or the Richard Benjamin comedy "My Favorite Year" (the latter set during televisions golden age.)

Dont go expecting a tradition play “ this is more "let your imagination" create the scene as it was in the days of "Amos 'n' Andy", Lucille Balls "My Favorite Husband" or even Orson Welles' infamous 1938 broadcast of "War of the Worlds."

But if you will sit back and allow the actors to work their magic, you will believe you are standing on the snow covered streets of Bedford Falls, New York following the life of George Bailey, his family and friends, and an "angel second class" named Clarence who has been sent to help him when life becomes overwhelming after years of "helping everybody but himself" and putting his dreams of escape on hold to settle down, take over the family business and raise a family.

The actors play a convincing troupe of radio personalities who are there to entertain the "live studio audience" as well as their "listening audience."

Several actors take on dual role of actor (almost everyone playing more than one role in the story) and sound effects technician. The talented cast changes their voices to accommodate the wide variety of Bedford Falls denizens and most of the voices are quite humorous.

From the moment the audience is welcomed into the theater the actors emerge and begin to prepare for the show as well as mingle with the audience “ introducing who they are and striking up small conversations to make people feel welcome and relaxed.

The magic of the show is watching how a live radio show might have been pulled together in 1946. The audience is invited to "sit back and relax" as the actors are introduced and the show begins.

There are many clever touches to enhance the effect of being in a radio studio including "on the air" and "applause" sign which lights up to instruct the audience to put their hands together (although the audience doesnt really need encouragement after the enjoyable performances).

Brian Welsko portrayal "George" and Veronica Bocians "Mary" are both charming to watch “ especially as George spirals from stable and caring family man into overwhelming dismay and contemplates ending his own life.

This prompts a guardian angel Clarence (played with delightful humor by Harold Minor) to step in and realize the only way to convince George how much he matters is to show him what his life would have been like if he had never been born.

This leads George onto a journey through the town to see how it has changed due to his never existing. We see the townspeople and his own family “ people who once depended on and respected George “ no longer recognizing him and he sees how badly their lives are because he was not present to assist them. These other characters do a great job of changing from friends to bitter and indifferent people.

As a result of this storyline the cast varies from the "wonderful life Bedford Falls" to what life would be like without George and back again and they all do it with great effect.

Kate Eggings transformation from debutant to Georges friend to vixen and back was especially good. Seth Rohrbach easily bounces from stuffy "head angel" to brother Harry as well as several other characters. Jeanie Olah is amusing in every role she assumed, and Mark Boyers comedic vocals always had the audience laughing. Paul Rossi was very adept at changing roles and also serving as announcer for two "commercials" with jingles set to Christmas songs. He portrayed the villain Mr. Potter with just the right combination of gruff demeanor and calculating wickedness.

The cast is rounded out by two "sound effects technicians" (Jonathan Kerbein and Syd Stauffer) who have amusing speaking roles but are more responsible for the majority of door slams, footsteps, crickets, car horns, police whistles ... whatever sound effects are needed to give the illusion of not being in a recording studio. They, and other actors who take over sound effects, give as much energy to the noises as to their speaking roles.

Even stage manager Mary-Catherine Bracali gets to play along in the fun by indicating the time until the "show" goes "on the air."

As mentioned, the set and lighting by Brett Oliveira is beautiful and made even more so with the addition of Christmas lights and a brightly decorated tree to get everyone in the holiday spirit.

Director Zane Bachert allows his actors to mingle and play a few amusing "pranks" without it ever detracting from the actors at the microphones telling the story. There are moments when the sound effects turned into effective jokes, and I wish more of these had been incorporated into the show.

From the moment you step into the Pennsylvania Playhouse the show puts you in a festive, holiday spirit. The lobby is decorated "warm and inviting" with lights subdued to make you feel as if you are home during a simpler time when families huddled around a radio to listen to their favorite programs as men and women would spin tales and transport audiences with "special effects" no more "special" than simple props, everyday items, or the actors voices “ and then enter the "studio" as actors appear and keep the illusion going strong.

In the words of the announcer at the start of the show "sit back and relax" and be entertained by this unique retelling of a classic holiday film.

"Its A Wonderful Life “ Live Radio Play" by Joe Landry has performances December 5, 6, 12, 13, 14, 18, 19, 20, 21 - Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM and Sundays at 3 PM.

For tickets call 610-865-6665 or visit