It’s a Wonderful Life

Posted by on Dec 18, 2017 in Illustration, Portland Stage Company | 1 comment

When I learned last winter that this season’s holiday show at Portland Stage Company would be It’s a Wonderful Life, I couldn’t WAIT to see the live radio play version. Joe Landry’s adaptation brought in all the vintage touches of a live radio broadcast, with applause signs, a foley table, and period commercials for cake soap and hair tonic.

I worked on rough ideas for the theater poster last February. My first idea used a big radio as if it’s the pivotal scene on the bridge between George Bailey and his guardian angel, Clarence.

Another composition, with a wreath and big vintage microphone above a small trio of actors.

My research on radio programs of the times showed everyone reading from a script. They could be carolers in this idea, with a big wreath framing two actors.

More variations on the theme…

Sketch #2 got the nod. I worked in pieces, since Portland Stage uses the illustration in so many formats. Background first! Bright red pastel, yum.

Our players, George, Mary, and Clarence. Of course, I didn’t know the casting at that point. I drew on sandy colored paper, blocking out the background with white, so the figures could be silhouetted digitally.

Likewise, the microphone was drawn on a white background for a silhouette that could be layered over the other elements.

Typography? Marty Braun came to my rescue, with a plethora of choices.

It’s a matter of digitally merging the separate illustrations from this point on, playing with scale and placement of the various parts, plus adding wings and snow, some shadows beneath the type.

I saw the noon show yesterday, with family plus our neighbor, Nikolai.

There was plenty to watch before the show, as actors gathered on set, a 1940’s era radio studio. Director and set designer Anita Stewart made ingenuous use of every inch.

In this production, nobody is reading their part! The fantastic cast nimbly changed multiple roles without missing a beat, donning a prop or two, while pulling off a full range of comedy to drama. David Mason channeled Jimmy Stewart impeccably, and Emma O’Donnell played a winsome Mary AND a despicable Mr. Potter. Dustin Tucker was downright divine as Clarence, yet also agile in countless other roles. His Mr. Walsh cracked me UP, as did Courtney Moors’ Mr. Martini.

Among my crew, there was not a dry eye in the house by the end.

There are still six days of performances. If you need a bit of angel in your frantic holiday chores, this will do it. Thank you, Portland Stage!




One Comment

  1. Jamie
    As always, I enjoyed following your stages towards the final version which is just great. Also really liked your third sketch from the top, the one with the wreath and bell.
    Can hardly wait to see it, we have tickets for TONIGHT ! together with Chris and Mere.

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