‘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.

‘The Bungler’ Brings Humor to the Stage

‘The Bungler’ by Molière at The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey. 2017. Pictured (left to right): Kevin Isola as Mascarille and Aaron McDaniel as Lélie. Photo credit: Jerry Dalia.

The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey is featuring a rarely seen comedy on their Main Stage in Madison, NJ. Written by Molière and translated by Richard Wilbur, The Bungler was first performed around 1655. It was Molière’s first full length play. It provides an early look at the playwright’s talent for comedy and it is very funny. The plot lends itself to misunderstandings and characters who are designed to make and add to those misunderstandings.

Directed by Brian B. Crowe, The Bungler centers around Lélie and his attempts to woe and win the woman of his dreams, Célie. Lélie is aided in his attempts by his very faithful valet, Mascarille, who also is the brains behind the operation. However, every time he thinks he has come up with a way for Lélie to succeed in his quest, Lélie himself does something to foil the plan. Lélie is the bungler because of all the crazy things he does to undo and upset the strategies Mascarille attempts. At one point, Lélie himself thinks he has come up with the best solution only to find that it again foils a plan. There are other characters in the story watching these actions take place. Additionally, there is a rival that Lélie has to overcome and those situations end up in foiled attempts with plots gone wrong as well.

Pictured (left to right): Sophia Blum as Célie, Kevin Isola as Mascarille, and Aaron McDaniel as Lélie. Photo credit: Jerry Dalia.

The story line is comical and a real strength of this production lies in the actors’ performances. Aaron McDaniel plays Lélie and Kevin Isola plays the long suffering valet Mascarille.  These two steal the show with their little quirky mannerisms and remarkable delivery of their lines. After the first several bungles occur, as soon as you see one or the other, you just know something funny is going to occur. Sophia Blum is a breathtaking Célie and Trufaldin, her owner, is patiently but wily played by Eric Hoffman.

Other members of the company for this show include James Michael Reilly, Drew Dix, Devin Comway, Sam Ashdown, Danilo Ottaviani, Tommy Bowden, Isabel Lagana, and Jack LeGoff.

It is interesting to look back at a play created in the 1600’s to see the dress and thinking that prevailed. The costumes and make up for this show are what we might call “over the top” but they are excellent additions to the romps that take place.

Perhaps the way to summarize what this show is about is quote Director Brian B. Crowe who said,

The Bungler is like a delicious sorbet on a hot summer day; sweet, refreshing and an ideal treat. Molière’s brilliant wit, colorful characters, and unexpected twists – not to mention the delightful costumes and sets from this stellar design team – are sure to inspire giddy laughter for people of all ages.

About the Show

Running Time: Over two hours with one 15 minute intermission

Location: The F.M. Kirby Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, on the campus of Drew University, 36 Madison Avenue, Madison, NJ

Performances: Tuesdays – Sundays through July 30, 2017

Contact for Info and Tickets: Call the Box Office at 973-408-5600 or go online at www.ShakespeareNJ.org.

Suggested Audience:  Those who enjoy comedies from early teens and up


Seven Reasons to See NJ Shakespeare Theatre’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’

The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey continues their 55th season with the popular tradition of an Outdoor Stage production. This year’s production is Shakespeare’s beloved comedy, A Midsummer Night’s Dream. All performances are on the campus of the College of Saint Elizabeth, the Outdoor Stage, 2 Convent Road, Florham Park, NJ.

This is a great play for summertime. It features an exuberant array of music, dance, and visual surprises. The Director, Bonnie Monte, has a fresh new vision of A Midsummer Night’s Dream that will make this popular play more enchanting than ever. According to press notes, the play is “In a world constructed almost entirely of objects that would normally be on their way to a landfill, her band of fairies transform trash into whimsical treasure.”

Here are seven reasons why you should go see it A Midsummer Night’s Dream:

1.  That description I just gave you above of the show!

2.  The cast will be superb. You will see Vanessa Morosco as the Fairy Queen, Earl Baker Jr. as Oberon, King of the fairies, and Theseus, Duke of Athens, and Bruce Cromer as Egeus and Peter Quince. Ian Hersey plays Nick Bottom, as Demetrius, Mustardseed, and Francis Flute is Austin Blunk. Also, Nike Kadri will play Helena, Cobweb, and Starveling, Jonathan Finnegan in the roles of Lysander, Moth, and Snout. As Hermia, Peaseblossom, and Snug is Courtney McGowan. Rounding out the cast is Felix Mayes who plays Philostrate and Puck.

3.  It is outdoors – how often do you get to bring your own seat (low backed of course) or cushion of your choice to sit on during a show?

4.  You can have a pre-show picnic right at your seat or in the grassy area right by the theater.

5.  Ticket prices are very reasonable and you don’t have to stand in line all morning to get them:

  • $37 each
  • Even better, the 30 UNDER 30 program for the 2017 season is in effect. Patrons aged 30 and under can purchase tickets for only $30 with valid ID, subject to availability.
  • Even better still are free 18 and under tickets and $15 student rush tickets, which are available 30 minutes prior to each performance, with a valid student ID

6.  Parking is free and very convenient.

7.  Seeing fine theater under the stars is about as good as it gets in the summer! There is something very magical in being outdoors at night watching a good play.

Convinced? So get your tickets now. The show is running now through July 30, 2017. Call the Box Office at 973-408-5600 or visit www.ShakespeareNJ.org.