Community theatre is such a fun way for fellow thespians to connect in their local area, as well as indulge in the enjoyment of their passion. It’s also a great way to spend an evening if you’re looking for something to do near home. We recently had the opportunity to experience a night at the Moonlight Players Theatre in Clermont, Florida, and were treated to a dazzling production of It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play.
I was invited as media to a complimentary preview of the show prior to opening night. All opinions, however, are 100% mine and mine alone.
I live in a town just next door to Clermont and have always found it fascinating that they have the rolling hills and tall trees that aren’t all palms. I know that sounds funny, but it’s the truth. Remember ~ we’re from New England (for the most part). We live for rolling hills and beautiful landscapes. Of course, I never realized how expansive the town of Clermont actually was until we were invited to this production.
We traveled to the northwest corner of Clermont to find a main street that seems so out of place to Florida, but quaint and adorable. It was dark when we arrived, but I could tell that it had something about it that is already calling me back to explore it more in the daylight. Yes, I will be back!!
Moonlight Players Theatre
The Moonlight Players Theatre sits behind the main road on West Minneola Avenue. It’s a small venue with a limited number of seats, but don’t let that stop you from visiting! Inside is where you will fall in love with the close knit community that takes the time to pour its heart out there on the stage for the audience.
When you walk into the main lobby, you are greeted by fun theatrical pieces – such as an old ticket booth and a circus-like concession stand off to the far right. To enter the theater itself, we were walked off to the right and through a thick red curtain. It seemed so fitting for a small community theater, to be honest. It was as if we were entering the stage ourselves.
We found seats in the middle of the second row. If you know me at all, I love to be close to the action. This provides me ample opportunity to capture those detailed facial expressions and maybe even catch them in a photo (when allowed).
Just prior to the production, the “stage manager” came out to give the 15 minute warning. At that point, we began to see the “actors” stroll in casually and converse with various members of the audience. That was a fun way to connect with those in the show. They were in character ~ so it was fun to have them comment on ladies in pants and how they had never heard of certain places before. I mean, it was the 1940s. It was a rather creative way to kick things off.
It’s Show Time!
Finally, it came time for the actual “production” to begin. The play starts off with the announcer, Freddy Filmore, played by Nathan Foshee-Brown, approaching the microphone to introduce each “actor” playing each “character” in the radio play.
Okay, T ~ why so many words in quotation marks!!!!???
The reason for that is because It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play is actually a play within a play – of sorts. The setting is a stage inside a radio station where the play, “It’s A Wonderful Life” is going to be read over the sound waves. When I say “actor,” I’m actually referring to those who will be taking on the roles in the radio play itself. So, there are actors playing “actors” who are playing “characters.” Get it?
So, how did they do?
The cast did a phenomenal job! It is community theater, so there is a wide range of talent, but everyone played their part well and effectively communicated the story-line and emotion! The youngest actor on stage was Irelyn Silvestro and she is just ten years old!. She was absolutely dynamite in her role as both Young Violet and Zuzu Bailey.
Yes, that is something very common in both community theater AND during the era of radio plays. It was not unusual to have one person play multiple roles in a show.
In radio, that’s not hard to accomplish because voice changes mask that fact. On stage, it’s interesting to see that actually played out. In this particular play, there were several roles within the voiced-over portion that were played by one actor. In fact, one particular gentleman, Bryce Hall, took on quite a bit and demonstrated tremendous vocalizations on stage. He was stunning to watch and extremely captivating to hear when he would implement his various vocal skills. Whether he was playing George’s best friend Bert, George’s youngest child or a bouncer, he showcased his skill like a pro and had us all mesmerized! He’s a must-watch, people!
The roles of George and Mary Bailey were cast perfectly, as were those of Mr. Potter (Kirk Klemesh) and Uncle Billy (Joe Nunez). Sarilda Mayberry (who played Mary Bailey) and Joshua Hernandez (who played George Bailey) connected flawlessly on stage and made their relationship believable and endearing. Joshua himself was spectacular as George, giving us every reason to believe he was the troubled businessman who needed to realize how valuable he really was to everyone.
When chatting with Joshua after the play, I had mentioned to him that I could visibly see that he studied the role. In response, he shared that he was actually very careful about trying to NOT channel Jimmy Stewart for the role. However, he admitted that he still would find himself every once in awhile falling victim to the accent. It’s inevitable at times, but he still mastered the role, made it his own and gave us that 1940s feel. Hot dog!
Hmmm ~ 1940s radio show. Well, that means that there were live commercials strung throughout the production! To the tunes of various Christmas carols, the actors gathered around any one of the three stage “microphones” to sing jingles highlighting their “sponsors.” These were adorable and a little comedy relief, if I might add. Duck Toilet Soap to the tune of “Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town”??? Oh, yes!!
Now, we all know the ending to the actual story ~ George comes to the realization that his life is very much valued and that, though life is tough, it is still worth living because of the people with whom we surround ourselves. He had a tremendous support system ~ a loving group of friends, an adoring family and a loyal community that rallied to be there for him ~ because he had been there for them when they needed it.
Ready for a Night at the Theatre?
If you find yourselves looking for a fun way to spend one of your weekend nights this holiday season, give the Moonlight Players a little thought. Pop into that car, drive over to Clermont and spend a few hours laughing, smiling and being entertained by this great troupe of community actors. Community theater is such a classic way to get together and enjoy the arts. I know it sparked a little more of that fire in my middle son’s passion for acting ~ it may very well just ignite a little something in you.
Tickets for It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play are:
- $20 adults
- $15 students
- $10 for those 12 and under
Moonlight Players Theatre
- 735 W. Minneola Ave Clermont, FL 34711
- Find on Google maps
**Read ALSO: My friend Michelle’s experience watching Pinnochio at the Marriott Theatre!
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