Radio Drama: UHS goes old school with It’s A Wonderful Life


Talon Cruz, Reporter

“Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings.”

This quote has been fixed in the minds of nearly everyone ever since It’s A Wonderful Life first came out in the 1940s. This year, it’s time for the young actors of the modern day to take up the roles of George Bailey, Mr. Potter, Clarence, and many more just in time for the holidays. That’s right: the UHS drama department is going old school and making a good old fashioned radio drama. With its initial recordings finished and the editing well under way, the Hawkeye interviewed the director and a few members of the cast to find out more.

“It’s a Wonderful Life was originally created as a radio show,” Stephen Ward, theater teacher and director of the show stated, “so I wanted to honor the time-tradition classic.”

In interviewing the cast, it was clear how much was different between a normal show and a pre-recorded radio style broadcast. The timing is different, no blocking, no set, no costumes. Charlie Beadle (12), who plays Joseph, said the biggest difference between stage acting and voice acting is “the lack of visual expression […] Physical expression is an incredibly important part of scenes, such as the way they are staged, or body language, or facial expression.” All that the audience will experience is the voices they are hearing, made all the more difficult by the fact that some actors are playing multiple characters throughout the show. Mr. Ward said the largest challenge he faces is “getting kids to find different nuances to their voice to make distinct parts.”

There are benefits, however, such as the students not needing to memorize their lines and instead being able to focus on character.  This show even allows some actors to step out of their normal comfort zone and play very different characters, such as Braeden Romer (11) playing Mr. Potter. When asked about playing such an out-of-type role, Romer responded, “I do believe that to an extent you need to look the part [in a normal stage performance]. Otherwise, I feel like the knowledge that I don’t look the part would affect how well I perform. […] Needless to say, I am happy that I got Potter during this time because I feel like I wouldn’t be able to do so otherwise. It’s a rare opportunity for me!” 

Don’t expect radio shows to become the norm, however. When asked about doing something similar in non-pandemic times, Mr. Ward responded, “I believe that theater is meant to be on stage. […] theater is meant to be seen in person.

On the plus side, Mr. Ward notes that perhaps these audio performances could make getting permission to stream stage performances of shows easier in the future, once rights owners realize how profitable it can be.

Urbana High School’s performance of It’s A Wonderful Life will be available to stream starting December 22nd and up to Christmas Eve at If you enjoy the performance, please feel free to donate to the department to show your support of the arts!