Review: It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play (Lower Ossington Theatre)

The cast of It's A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio PlayChristmas classic, on stage in Toronto, is a “feast of multi-layered talent”!

Remember that twinge of guilt you felt at school the day after blowing off your homework? I feel something similar about never having seen the classic movie It’s A Wonderful Life. So I jumped at the opportunity to see It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play at Lower Ossington Theatre in Toronto.

Stan, my guest for the evening, was also guilty: he hadn’t seen the Christmastime film classic either. As we walked off the streets of 2015 Toronto, up a flight of stairs, down a hall and into the theatre, we were transported to a 1940s radio studio in Manhattan. We were immersed in a beautiful way: there was bleacher-style seating on either side of a radio “pit.” Three microphones, two tables and various props comprised the stage.

The show is worth seeing for many reasons, but one of the geekier ones is to see the choreography and creation of sound effects. I once had the privilege of seeing a Letterman taping. They filmed Dave’s show in real time and it took a well-oiled machine to pull it off. Director Seanna Kennedy has created an equally impressive machine with It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play. It’s a joy to sit back and watch the magic happen onstage.

But this is much more than a bells and whistles, gee-wiz show. Almost 70 years old, this timeless classic is the story of George Bailey’s life. On the night that Stan and I attended, Vince Deiulis did an amazing job as George and was a dead ringer for Jimmy Stewart.

As George contemplates suicide, Clarence (played by David Bradshawe), an angel yet to earn his wings, shows George how things would have been different if he had never been born.

There’s fine acting by everyone throughout. The actors had to have their wits tuned to not only their lines and acting but also to creating sound effects for the radio programme. It was truly impressive and a fine display of multitasking. Stan and I both enjoyed this feast of multi-layered talent. What a wonderful Christmas treat!

Another thing I really liked about It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play is that although the audience is “behind the scenes,” it is still a “radio play.” That means the audience is left to paint the picture of the action for themselves. It was engaging and really great food for our collective imaginations.

There wasn’t anything with the play itself that we disliked, but you should note that this is one of those shows that starts at 7:30. It’s not uncommon these days, but personally, I prefer the old-fashioned 8:00 start time. That’s saying an awful lot, if my only complaint was the start time.

Go see It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play if you get the chance. It’s a Christmas present that you won’t consider re-gifting.


  • It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play plays until December 24, 2015 at Lower Ossington Theatre (100A Ossington Avenue).
  • Shows run Thursday to Saturday at 7:30pm, with additional matinees on Saturdays at 2:00pm and Sundays at 4:00
  • Tickets range from $49.99 for single seats to $179.96 for a Family 4-Pack
  • Tickets are available in person at the box office, by telephone (416.915.6747) or online

Photo of the cast of It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play by Seanna Kennedy

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