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'It's a Wonderful Life' is a play within a play in WCT's latest

Friday is opening night for It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play
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From left: Tracey Power as Sally Applewhite, playing Mary Bailey, Alex Furber as Jake Laurents, playing George Bailey and Lukas Vanderlip and Ross Nichol creating sounds during a rehearsal.

A play within a play is set to hit the stage at the Sagebrush Theatre beginning Thursday, Nov. 24.

It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play will run until Dec. 10, with a preview show on Thursday and opening night on Friday.

At the heart of the play is the beloved Christmas classic, but the adaptation by Joe Landry goes beyond that, telling the story of characters who bring it to life and learn lessons along with the characters they're playing.

The play stars National Theatre School of Canada graduate Alex Furber, the multi-talented and WCT favourite Tracey Power, Laine Gillies and Annette Loiselle, who will be making their WCT debuts, and a trio of experienced WCT actors, including Kirk Smith, Christopher Weddell and CBC Radio Kamloops host Doug Herbert.

But one person on stage won't be one of the play's actors. Sound designer Lukas Vanderlip will have a prominent role in the live radio play within a play, using Foley props to live produce some 200 sound cues.

At Vanderlip's disposal will be dozens of Foley props used to create the soundscape of the radio play. The use of props to create specific sound effects was pioneered by and named after American film technician James Foley.

Vanderlip has spent weeks experimenting by wandering around his home, through grocery stores and in rehearsal spaces tapping, scraping and banging on objects to find the right sounds for the play.

"For example, if you're hearing ice cracking, that's a stalk of celery — you kind of crack it and then snap it for the sound of ice cracking, and then we have a bucket of water and a plunger," Vanderlip told KTW.

Other actors will also step in to help Vanderlip along the way, particularly when he is performing the play's score on piano.

The live sound role is somewhat of a departure for Vanderlip, who has several sound engineer credits under his name with WCT and came up as an actor under the company's Stage One Theatre School. It's a role he's looking forward to and one from which he's already grown.

"It's just a super cool way to get creative with sounds. Recording has given me a lot of freedom in messing with sound in a program, but doing live Foley has really expanded my recording brain," he said.

Director Johnna Wright said it was decided just a few weeks before rehearsal began that Vanderlip be moved to a more prominent position on stage.

"He's a bit of a one-man band at times," Wright said.

The actors on stage will also have their work cut out for them, playing multiple characters, quickly swapping voices or costumes to make it all work.

"If you're wondering how you keep all those characters straight, we think about that a lot," Wright said. "And we put effort into making sure the audience knows who's who, with distinct voices," she said.

Wright said she is excited to show her directorial take on the classic story and how our lives matter in ways we don't necessarily realize.

"You have to see how the inner clockworks of how the radio play gets made, how they work together to tell that story. It's a really cool extra bonus on the story," Wright said.

Tickets for the show are available at the Kamloops Live box office, online at kamloopslive.ca or by phone at 250-374-5483.