Oil Lamp Theater’s IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE Review – It’s a Wonderful Show!

I love traditions and this Christmas tradition beats all the others hands down!

Ever since I saw that black-and-white movie on TV I was hooked!  Hooked by the humanity. Hooked by the gentle sweetness of it all! And every year I look forward to seeing as many interpretations of IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE as I can! Because it's so filled with joie de vivre and hope for the world, it captures “the Holiday spirit” perfectly.

Amanda Mayer and Martin Hughes

So I was thrilled to know that my favorite troopers: those talented, madcap-but-mellow characters at the Oil Lamp Theater in Glenview, were going to try their hand at charming me with their version of IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE.

Did they ever! The Oil Lamp Theater started with the film’s charming story, added their unique sense of humor, enhanced the characterization multi-rolling the incredibly versatile cast, amplified Mr. Potter’s meanness, sanctified George Baily and had us all on the edge of our seats until Clarence got his wings! YAY!

Here's what the audience is saying about the show:

“Wonderful experience! The actors were excellent, the theatre was quaint: it all made for a warm start to the holiday season! My whole family thoroughly enjoyed it. The show was so creative and entertaining!”


“I saw "IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE RADIO SHOW" at the OIL LAMP THEATRE in Glenview Illinois last night. It was awesome! (And we don't normally like things like this!)... so if you're in the area and have some time, check them out and try and catch a show!”


Lest I confuse you, this version of “IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE” is not the black and white classic film. It’s a live “radio play” by Joe Landry and a charming “throwback to the simpler times of radio.”  Ahhhhh, you say? So do I: visit the OIL LAMP THEATER this holiday season and enjoy its ambiance, insouciance and relevance! Once you cross its threshold, the warm welcome will take you back to a simpler more gentle times. 

Start your detoxification with some fresh-baked holiday cookies and hot chocolate while letting your childlike wonderment get settle in.  And then (when you’re all prepped!), OIL LAMP THEATER itself will be transformed into the 1940s radio studio of New York station WBFR for its warmhearted adaptation of IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE. And YOU get to become a member of the live audience that helps make the story a reality as you are introduced to the many characters (charming and not so charming: you know who they are!) who populate Bedford Falls, New York -- a special place where our faith in the power of love and friendship is restored…and Angels earn their wings!


What a marvelous cast:

Martin Hughes (Chicago) and Amanda Meyer (Chicago) play George and Mary Bailey, while Joe Page (Evanston) is the enthusiastic host and announcer for WBFR. Page also provides the voice of the villainous old miser Mr. Potter and other residents of Bedford Falls. Marshall Kious (Chicago) and Marisa Lerman (Glenview) also bring to life several roles in the radio drama. Kious is the saving angel Clarence, Harry Bailey, Sam Wainwright and more. Lerman lends her versatile voice and acting skills to every other female in the play, ranging from a small child to the town siren to George Bailey’s mom. (Lerman is also the very able, responsive publicist who keeps the press (ok, me!) on their toes. Stephen Smith (Evanston) returns as a variety of characters, including the druggist Mr. Gower, Uncle Billy, Ernie the cop and more. The production is directed by Artistic Director, Keith Gerth (Northbrook)


Rounding out the cast is Foley (sound effects) artist and real-life stage manager Traci Cidlik (Wheeling) who plays the sound engineer at WBFR. She is entrusted with all the behind-the-scenes audio magic for this radio play. Cidlik adds a critical dimension to the show, using clever and surprising techniques to simulate ringing telephones, chirping crickets, slamming doors, breaking glass and much more.


This radio play does closely follow the plot of the Frank Capra film. However, audience members will experience the story through the unique lens of this “golden age of radio” production, complete with flashing “applause” signs and clever jingles during commercial breaks. The audience even has a chance to send out radiogram messages (composed during intermission and read “on the air”) to loved ones listening at home courtesy of the WBFR airwaves!


Performances of IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE: A LIVE RADIO PLAY through December 20th, Thursdays through Sundays.

For evening performances, doors open at 7:30 pm and shows begin at 8:00 pm.

For Saturday and Sunday matinees, doors open at 2:30 pm and the show begins at 3:00 pm.

Oil Lamp Theater is a BYOB establishment – but hot chocolate and home-made cookies are also available for everyone!

Tickets are $35 and are available through brownpapertickets or at the Oil

Lamp box office on Tuesdays through Fridays from noon to 5 pm.

Group rates are also available. 

The theater space will be specially “dressed” for a 1940s Christmas, and there will always be many surprises. Make IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE part of your holiday tradition!



The Oil Lamp Theater opened its doors in Glenview in 2012 and has thus far welcomed over 20,000 guests.

In Oil Lamp’s unique environment, the theater space is just as much a part of the artistic canvas as the carefully selected theatrical productions. The Oil Lamp experience begins with a warm greeting that welcomes guests into a home-like environment. It always includes candlelight and complimentary freshly-baked cookies.  The performances guide audiences on an intimate journey that explores the human condition through the lens of relationships and love.

Oil Lamp Theater is located at 1723 Glenview Road, just west of the intersection of Waukegan and Glenview Roads.

Email at [email protected] or call our box office at (847) 834-0738.


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