Last updateWed, 20 Sep 2017 9am

Stepping Out

Bus Barn Stage Company produces ‘Wonderful’ performance

Photo By: Joyce Goldschmid/special to the Town Crier
Photo Joyce Goldschmid/Special To The Town Crier

“It’s a Wonderful Life A Live Radio Play” stars, from left, Charles Woodson Parker, Katherine Leyva, Martin Gagen, Clara Hirsh and Ryk Houseman.

Tthe Bus Barn Theater stage is transformed into a 1940s radio studio for “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play,” Joe Landry’s adaptation of Frank Capra’s classic film. The play is scheduled to run through Dec. 22 in Los Altos.

Five actors portray a multitude of characters, singing old, familiar advertising jingles and generating sound effects that create a delightful vintage atmosphere.

Directed by Ana-Catrina Buchser, the actors deliver energetic performances and have fun with their roles and the material.

Ryk Housman plays radio announcer Freddie Filmore and voices 10 other characters. Housman, a semi-retired engineer, got the acting bug when he was tapped for a skit at work. His secret for keeping track of the many voice changes, ranging from old men to children? “Don’t lose focus.”

Martin Gagen portrays Jake Laurents, the voice of George Bailey, the small-town local played by Jimmy Stewart in the classic Christmas film. Gagen, who is British, said he tries not to imitate Stewart but wants to do “something different” with his inflection. Following 25 years as an investor, Gagen has performed on TV and in movies. He joined San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theater eight years ago.

Clara Hirsh is Sally Applewhite, the voice of Mary, George Bailey’s wife. Hirsh, an arts enrichment teacher at several local elementary schools, grew up in Illinois with parents who were singers. She is as lovely as Donna Reed was in the film version and well-suited for the role of Mary.

Charles Woodson Parker, who plays Harry “Jazzbo” Heywood, is the only cast member to have performed at Bus Barn before. Parker, a musician, has performed on several Bay Area stages and plays the sax in “It’s a Wonderul Life.” In his day job, Parker is a financial analyst.

Katherine Leyva portrays Lana Sherwood and 11 voices – from little girl to old woman. Leyva has been acting, singing and dancing since age 3. She works as an administrative assistant at a local company but considers acting her real job.

Pianist Charles Morgan and the Bus Barn Stage Company production staff all contribute to the nostalgic atmosphere.

“It’s a Wonderful Life” transports the audience to a simpler time when radio depended on listeners’ imaginations to visualize the action. The play is the ideal way to celebrate the holiday season.

Shows are scheduled 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays, 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, and 3 p.m. Sunday at 97 Hillview Ave.

For tickets ($18-$30) and more information, visit www.busbarn.org.

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