Snake River Radio Players showcasing unique ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ performance

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IDAHO FALLS — The Christmas season is upon us once again, filling the air with hope and good will, and filling our schedules with shopping, family get-togethers and dozens of other tasks. Such a crush of things to do can stress one out, so Christmas plays and concerts can help relieve the holiday anxiety and help you catch the Christmas spirit.

The Snake River Radio Players, a group of talented locals, are raising the bar on Christmas events, aiming to put on a truly unique production. Their presentation of “It’s a Wonderful Life” offers a familiar holiday tale with a twist. The show is presented as if it were a 1940s radio program, with period costumes and actors utilizing their vocal skills to play multiple roles and live, on-set sound effects.

Tasha Bere, who directs the Radio Players, organized the group last year with the idea of putting on a Christmas show in mind. “I had just finished a show at the Virginia Theater (in Shelley), and the very next day, I said ‘I want to do a Christmas show”, Bere told EastIdahoNews.com.

After surveying local holiday events and not finding one that fit the vision for what she wanted to do, Bere decided to put together her radio-style show. “There’s no sets, there’s no scene changes, no costume changes”, she said. “Everything is really simple to put together, because it just looks like it would for a radio broadcast.”

Bere began to recruit her cast by posting audition announcements online. She knew she could find talented local actors to play multiple roles for her show, but in the end, most of the actors are people she has worked with or met through the Virginia Theater.

“The Virginia Theater is kind of a focal point for us”, she said. “And that’s part of why we’re so happy to be doing two shows there this year.” Bere said the theater’s history of putting on family-friendly fare made it a perfect fit for the Radio Players’ show.

This production of “It’s a Wonderful Life” will be different from what you’re likely to see at other holiday shows around the area. “Our cast has their scripts and they’re performing at a microphone without any blocking,” says Bere.

Blocking refers to actors performing stage directions and hitting their marks.

The production’s visual look will be minimalistic. The stage will be decorated with Christmas trees and the cast will be outfitted in period clothing, but that’s it. Bere hopes to evoke familiar feelings from Christmases past. “It’s really playing on the feelings of the season that people fondly remember,” she said. “A time when it was just wholesome, sitting in front of the radio with your family and listening to this production that brings the Christmas spirit into your house.”

Bere believes that the show’s themes make it enjoyable for audience members of all ages.

“It’s about hope and light and forgiving yourself”, she said. “And there are even children in the cast, so I feel like that’s appealing to anyone who comes.”

She also says audience participation and live, real-time sound effects also will enthrall audience members.

This year, the show features live holiday-themed musical performances from The Acabellas, Jimmy Explosion and the Fantastic and the Edgemont Ukulele Club.

The show is sponsored by Idaho Central Credit Union, Improv Underground and Henway Poultry and Egg Co.

You can catch the Snake River Radio Players production of “It’s a Wonderful Life” December 7,8 and 9 at Trinity United Methodist Church in Idaho Falls at 7:30 p.m., with a Saturday matinee at 2 p.m. on Dec. 9. The show then moves to the Virginia Theater for shows on December 12 and 13 at 7:30 p.m.

Admission to the Trinity United shows is free, although donations to the church’s building fund will be accepted. Admission to the Virginia Theater shows will be $7, with part of the proceeds going to the church.

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