John O'Connor takes the mike
Local radio personality John O’Connor plays radio announcer Fred Filmore in Great Bend Community Theatre’s upcoming production, "It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play." His wife Sally O’Connor is the director.
Not worried about being typecast, O’Connor says he’s enjoying his role as a 1940s radio announcer. Since the radio station in the play is broadcasting a live Christmas Eve production of "It’s a Wonderful Life," his character also plays three parts in the story.
"It’s a real kick to be in something like this, " O’Connor said. He provided a couple of old-style microphones for use as stage props, and recalls listening to theatrical broadcasts growing up in Wisconsin. "I remember in the late ’50s hearing some of the great radio plays like "The Shadow" and "Suspense.""
Radio had changed by the time O’Connor got his first job at a radio station, at WOMT in Manitowoc, Wis., in 1964. He later served in the military, and then came to Great Bend and KVGB radio in 1973. He can be heard on KVGB 1590 AM weekday mornings. "The John O’Connor Morning Show" airs from 8-8:30 a.m., and he hosts "The Trading Post" from 9-10 a.m.
Great Bend Community Theatre will present a holiday classic with a twist: "It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play."
The show opens this week at the Crest Theater, 1905 Lakin Ave. Curtain time will be at 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and at 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 4.
Director Sally O’Connor said the play by Joe Landry is essentially a remake of Frank Capra’s beloved Christmas movie, but it’s done as a live radio broadcast in the 1940s. The action takes place on the stage and auditorium of Studio A at WBFR in Manhattan, N.Y., on Christmas Eve, 1946.
The actors take on the roles of employees at the radio station, who in turn are presenting the radio play, "It’s a Wonderful Life."
"It follows the story that we know from the movie really closely," O’Connor said. "It’s just adapted for the radio, and our imagination." The audience is treated to watching the actors at the microphone playing multiple roles and creating sound effects. There are also a couple of real "commercials" for local businesses, done in 1940s-radio style.
The cast includes John O’Connor, Jeff Gibson, Dyann Twitchell, Grady Bolding, Doug Simmons, Chris Orlando, Jennifer King, Mike McGurk, Karen Kline-Martin, Kiley Demel and Jeri Hill-Harder. Karen Neuforth and George Martin are stage managers.