It’s a Wonderful Life-Live Radio Play at Kenyon Hall

No man is a failure who has friends.

Although Lou Mager, the former organist supremo and producer at Kenyon Hall, is no longer with us, having passed away during the pandemic and 12th Night Productions has closed down; nevertheless, the new producers at West Seattle’s Kenyon Hall, have carried on the Christmas tradition of presenting a live radio play of “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

As most of us know, it was originally a 1946 movie by Frank Capra, based on a short story, The Greatest Gift by Phillip Van Doren Stern. The radio adaptation by Joe Landry is based on the dialogue and narration of the movie.

Historically, the movie came out at a pivotal time in our nation’s history, right after World War II, when veterans were coming home, after seeing some pretty nasty things in Europe and the Far East, having lived through a depression, which shook everybody’s faith in Capitalism.

Just to add to everybody’s angst, much of Europe had been gobbled up, involuntarily, by the Soviet Union, where a Soviet-style version of Socialism was imposed, mostly to benefit the Soviets. Elsewhere in Europe, many counties were flirting with democratic socialism, and had active Communist parties aligned with the Soviets.

One interpretation of It’s a Wonderful Life-the Marxist -is that It’s Wonderful Life was a piece of propaganda to convince Americans that individual efforts, as epitomized by George Bailey, can defeat the evils of Capitalism, as epitomized by the evil banker Potter. The message was clear that collective organization was not necessary, and that the American Dream of homeownership was within everybody’s reach. The FBI, actually thought that the movie might be a Communist plot because it shows a banker as a villian!!!!

On the other hand there is also a very human message: that behaving ethically and taking on what seem like little battles in a provincial town, is just as important as being proclaimed a hero, and that one will always be rewarded for putting honesty, compassion, and the golden rule above profits.

George Bailey, as we all know had huge ambitions to be an architect/construction mogul and to get out of the small town where his father ran a struggling Building and Loan association. George Sr. was a force of good in the community, as his business promoted home ownership, while sparring incessantly with the town’s evil banker, Mr. Potter, who wanted to force people to live in his privately owned slums. Mr. Potter did not follow the golden rule and viewed the human race as untermensch to be exploited.

Fate and a sense of right and wrong, conspires against George and one thing after another keeps him in his hometown, but along the way, he keeps the Building and Loan afloat, helps people buy their own homes, encourages industry so people have jobs in a very self-sacrificing manner.

When, through no fault of his own, the evil banker Potter almost succeeds in finishing George and the Building and Loan off, George reaps what he has sown and all the townspeople rush to his rescue, including his younger brother, who managed to live the life George had originally wanted, and one of his millionaire boy-hood chums.

In the process, George with the help of his guardian angel Clarence, re-evaluates his life, realizes that the life with which he was frustrated, actually gave him happiness and purpose, because of the positive effect he had had on the people around him. The radio play ends in happiness and the Christmas spirit.

Kenyon Hall is blessed with a Wurlitzer Organ, and an organist, Sawyer Best, accompanying the show. Director Mary Springer directed this exceptional live radio program complete with live commercials, cue cards for the audience by Liam Van Gemert.

The superb cast played many parts and possessed versatile voices so, sometimes a character played the evil Mr. Potter with a commanding voice and in the next scene played a young innocent child.

Kenyon Hall is actually a perfect venue for It’s a Wonderful Life, as it has been a feature of West Seattle’s artistic life since 1906 and would be at home in 1940’s Bedford Falls. I heartily recommend this play, for the whole family.


It’s a Wonderful Life
. Live Radio Show, Kenyon Hall 7904-35th Ave SW, Seattle, WA (West Seattle) Dec 15, 16 at 7:30 pm. Dec. 17 3pm.

Tickets: keyonhall.org

Senior and Student discounts.

Street Parking available, Also it is not that difficult to get to.

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