George Bailey, Mary Hatch, Mr. Potter and the entire cast of the 1946 cinematic phenomenon “It’s a Wonderful Life” are coming to Athens in a refreshing and creative way.
The Morton Theatre is turning the Christmas flick into a live 1940s radio show and features an all African American cast.
This radio show performance is the first of its kind at the Morton, said Thomas Brazzle, a Morton Theatre Corporation board member and director of the production.
“When you see it done differently, you take moments more to heart,” Brazzle said. ” I always ask, ‘What gives it a different flavor?’”
“It’s a Wonderful Life” tells the story of a husband and father George Bailey. Feeling like a failure, he’s about to commit suicide during the holiday season when his guardian angel, Clarence, shows him how different the world would be without his contributions.
The play will follow the original movie very closely and five actors will portray a total of 40 characters, Brazzle said. Through the power of sets, props and sound effects, the stage will transform into a 1940s recording studio.
The show itself didn’t take long to plan, said Pedro Alvarado, a Morton Theatre Corporation board member and one of the actors in the show. The actors will perform the scenes with scripts in-hand, so no memorization is required.
The Morton Building itself assisted in forming the core of the downtown black business district and is a historical landmark, according to its official website. The Morton Theatre continues to serve as a major entertainment facility for the Athens black community.
The Morton Theatre has hosted an array of big-name African-American performances in its history: Cab Calloway, Curley Weaver and Blind Willie McTell, to name a few. Just this year, the theater has hosted its third annual Black History Month Film Festival, “The King and I,” and Below Baldwin: How an Expansion Project Unearthed a University’s Legacy of Slavery.”
“[The show] will really shine a light on the fact that we have a very diverse culture in Athens.” Brazzle said.