‘It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play’ Begins Nov. 30 in Madison

The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey ends its 2017 season with an adaptation of a popular holiday film. The show is It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play. There was a successful staged reading of the play in 2016. The director of that reading, Doug West, returns to direct this new take on a beloved tale. Adapter Joe Landry has brought the 1946 film to the stage where he has gathered a troupe of radio actors and live Foley sound artists to perform It’s a Wonderful Life in a 1940s radio station.

Press notes describe the show as follows:

A group of actors and technicians gather in a 1940s radio station at holiday time to perform a live broadcast of It’s a Wonderful Life. Replete with Foley sound effects, commercials from the era, and sprinkled throughout with a generous dose of humor and music, this charming piece brings the famous story to life in a new way and fills the theatre with the inspiring spirit of the holidays.

Director Doug West said, “It’s a Wonderful Life has been a part of my holiday tradition for years. We’ve assembled a fantastic cast and creative team for this production, and I’m very excited at the idea of sharing this iconic holiday tale with our audience.”

The cast includes John Keabler who reprises the leading role of George Bailey after playing it in last year’s holiday reading of It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play. Susan Maris will play Mary Hatch. Andy Paterson will play the role of Clarence Oddbody.

John Ahlin plays Mr. Potter and Tina Stafford plays Ma Bailey. James Michael Reilly plays Billy Bailey. Javon Johnson plays Joseph. Playing Violet Bick is Elizabeth Colwell with Russell Sperberg as Harry Bailey.

Company member Warren Pace will provide the live Foley sound effects throughout the performance. Mr. Pace is currently the Theatre’s sound technician.

The F.M. Kirby Shakespeare Theatre will be transformed into a 1940s radio station by the creative talents of Scenic Designer Charlie Calvert, Lighting Designer Matthew Adelson, Costume Designer Natalie Loveland, and Sound Designer Steven Beckel. The Production Stage Manager is Kathy Snyder.


Tickets for It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play begin at $29 for preview performances and $69 for regular performances. Patrons aged 30 can participate in the 30 UNDER 30 program and can purchase tickets for only $30 with valid ID, subject to availability. For tickets, patrons can call the Box Office at 973-408-5600 or visit www.ShakespeareNJ.org.

The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey offers various cost-saving opportunities, including $15 student rush tickets, which are available 30 minutes prior to each performance, with a valid student ID, and a limited number of Pay What You Can tickets for every performance on a first come, first serve basis.

‘Shakespeare in Love’ is Enchanting

‘Shakespeare in Love’ based on the screenplay by Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard and adapted for the stage by Lee Hall, with music by Paddy Cunneen. The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey 2017. Directed by Bonnie J. Monte. Pictured (left to right): Whitney Maris Brown as Viola de Lesseps and Jon Barker as Will Shakespeare. Photo credit: Jerry Dalia.

A new play is gracing the stage at The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey. Based on the Oscar winning movie of the same name, Shakespeare in Love plays in Madison through November 12, 2017. The show is based on a screenplay from the movie of the same name by Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard. The new production is adapted for the stage by Lee Hall and this marks its Metropolitan debut. No doubt the right decision was made for this fabulous new production to open here. Under the direction of the Shakespeare Theatre’s Artistic Director Bonnie J. Monte and with musical direction by Kris Kukul, the show is absolutely enchanting.

There are many things to like about this show that it is hard to know where to start. Perhaps a line in the press notes said it best: “This exuberant theatrical ‘love letter’ is filled with music and a huge cast of colorful characters (and one feisty dog).” One could stop right at the words “love letter” and have a feel for the show. The mood created by the production allows audience members to feel as though they are a part of the time when Shakespeare was just coming into his own. For Shakespeare fans, it is a dream come true to be able to see what he might have been like as a person. Seeing him fall in love is a highlight of this show. Seeing what he does from that love is both enchanting and sure to provide a lot of food for thought.

The opening scene shows Shakespeare sitting at his desk trying to write a sonnet. He is frustrated as he crumbles up page after page of attempts. Writer’s block is causing him distress. He receives suggestions as he talks with other people and he incorporates their suggestions into his own work. These inferences add fuel to the age old controversy as to whether Shakespeare actually wrote all he claimed. But these early scenes play out in light humor allowing the audience to get a feel for what the man might have gone through.

Will Shakespeare is in the early stages of his writing career so he is at the mercy of theater/company owners. The theater owners are always anxious to please their benefactors. The playwrights bow to their wishes especially to those of Queen Elizabeth who loves seeing dogs on stage. A funny scene occurs with a play performance that features an actual dog on the stage for which the Queen is delighted.

The play really starts to move well when Will meets Viola, disguised as a young man. She takes on the disguise to fulfill her desire to act onstage before she marries. He is smitten with “Thomas Kent” as she calls herself. The scenes where Will and Viola become involved romantically are very well done. They are so well performed by Jon Barker as Will and Whitney Maris Brown as Viola that one can understand the passion that pulls Shakespeare out of his writing block allowing him to produce Romeo and Juliet.

The conclusion is in keeping with honor and respect to social conventions of the time. One might view it as nod to the maturity the two lovers have achieved as a result of their relationship. It is a satisfying ending.

Shakespeare in Love is filled with good dialog, music, and well developed characters. The cast includes over twenty people and a dog named Dublin. This show is well worth seeing and one that all ages can enjoy.

Additional Information about Shakespeare in Love:

Running Time: 2 hours 30 minutes plus one 15-minute intermission

Location: F. M. Kirby Shakespeare Theatre,  36 Madison Ave, Madison, NJ (on the campus of Drew University)

Performances: Tuesdays – Sundays – Consult the website for more information

Contact for Info and Tickets: Call 973-408-5600 or visit www.ShakespeareNJ.org.

Suggested Audience: Appropriate for all ages

Additional Information:

Post-Show Symposium Performances: Saturday, November 4 at 2:00 p.m.


‘The Honeymooners’ Ends Its Run at Paper Mill

The Honeymooners at Paper Mill Playhouse; Photo by Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade; from left to right: Michael Mastro (Norton), Laura Bell Bundy (Trixie), Leslie Kritzer (Alice) and Michael McGrath (Ralph)

The Honeymooners ends its run at Paper Mill Playhouse today. This new show is based on the CBS television series, The Honeymooners. The book is by Dusty Kay and Bill Nuss. Music is by Stephen Weiner and lyrics by Peter Mills. John Rando directs with choreography by Joshua Bergasse. Musical direction and vocal arrangements are by Remy Kurs.

The principal cast features Michael McGrath as Ralph Kramden, Michael Mastro as Ed Norton, Leslie Kritzer as Alice Kramden, and Laura Bell Bundy as Trixie Norton. Also included are Lewis Cleale as Bryce Bennett, Lewis J. Stadlen as Old Man Faciamatta, and David Wohl as Allen Upshaw.

The Honeymooners ensemble features Holly Ann Butler, Chris Dwan, Hannah Florence, Tessa Grady, Stacey Todd Holt, Ryan Kasprzak, Drew King, Eloise Kropp, Harris Milgrim, Justin Prescott, Lance Roberts, Jeffrey Schecter, Britton Smith, Alison Solomon, Michael Walters, and Kevin Worley.

Previews began Sept. 28. Opening Night was Oct. 8, 2017. After the show, the cast and guests headed over to Charlie Brown’s restaurant on Main Street in Millburn. The Red Carpet brought memorable moments:

Michael Mastro, Laura Bell Bundy, Joyce Randolph (the original Trixie), Michael McGrath Leslie Kritzer, and Brian Carney


Brian Carney, son of Art Carney, the original Norton, brings his father’s original Honeymooners Hat for Michael Mastro, Norton in the new production, to see.


To see more memorable moment photos from the Red Carpet after the show, visit our Facebook page.  

Read more about this show right here and also see photos from the curtain call here.