'It's A Wonderful Life!'
Radio Play Script, Music & Sound Effects
Perfect for the 2019-2020 Christmas season!
Above, Michael Richards, Sara Rue, Susan Sullivan and Orson Bean appearing in a Pasadena Playhouse production of Tony Palermo's adaptation of It's a Wonderful Life!. Other productions starred Alfred Molina, Brooke Adams and Tony Shalhoub, as well as another run, with Joe Mantegna, Sharon Lawrence, Fred Willard, and Jamie Farr. The Geffen Theater presented a production starring Peter Gallagher, Annette Bening, Bryan Cranston, and Shirley Jones.
I offer a radio-professional's adaptation of Frank Capra's It's A Wonderful Life!--as a radio drama. This version is faithful to the film while being thoroughly entertaining as a radio-on-stage production. I am a professional radio dramatist and sound effects artist, a veteran of over 2500 shows--who has worked with the greats from the Golden Age and today--on-air and on-stage. I've used my extensive radio drama expertise to craft a Wonderful Life that brings the delight of classic radio drama to modern audiences.
My adaptation is intended to be performed as a 1940s-era live radio show, taking place on-stage, with actors reading from scripts while standing at microphones, and sound effects artists doing the doors, footsteps in snow, Mr. Potter's squeaky wheelchair, etc. The script works for live broadcast, podcast or audiobook, but my focus is in presenting theater audiences with an authentic and delightful experience of radio drama in its heyday.
The full version of the script runs 102 minutes--without intermission--but breaks into three
NOTE: For troupes wishing a shorter show, I also offer a 60-minute version--that omits the Violet Bick character completely and pares back other scenes and trims dialogue. However, even at 60 minutes, the story still holds up.
Additionally, I offer pre-recorded sound effects and pre-recorded music tracks using an authentic radio-drama organ score (plus some piano, accordion and jazz combo tracks.) Sheet music for the organ/piano score is also available, so a single keyboardist can accompany the show--live.
The script comes with a 60 page appendix: How to Produce 'Wonderful Life' as a Radio-on-Stage Show, detailing everything from thematic approaches to the material, to casting monologues, a sound effects cookbook, pre-recorded track listings, audio gear resources, right down to instructions for “working” a microphone. Additionally, there’s a history of how radio-on-stage shows were produced in the Golden Age of 1940s radio and how you can blend the various styles to fit your troupe's resources and likings.
The performance royalty I charge is based upon the venue (school, stage, recording, or broadcast) and the number of performances/broadcasts. For a quote, contact me at and tell me about your intended production.
NOTE: Because I e-mail you a PDF file of the script, I do NOT charge for script-booklets. All other 'Wonderful Life' adaptations charge a performance royalty PLUS $8-10 per script copy. For 'WL'--a show with 10-27 actors & crew--the per-script-copy fees could add another $200-$300 to your costs.
Sample copies of the script are available as PDF files. (See the link below.)
I accept payments via the free and secure PayPal.com service.
TO ORDER: Contact me at and tell me which version of the script you are interested in--the 100-minute or 60-minute version. Also tell me about your intended production (venue size, seating capacity, ticket prices, how many performances, etc.) I deliver the script (and optional sheet music score) via e-mail as a PDF file, and the pre-recorded music cues and pre-recorded sound effects tracks can be downloaded as MP3 files. The live sound effects (bells, plates, footsteps, etc.) are up to you to assemble, but my script has a "cookbook" section explaining how to make each sound using items you can find locally or on-line.
As an experienced theater professional, I understand that sometimes changes need to be made to fit a troupe's resources--and cast make-up. Unlike other playwrights, I allow you to skip or alter scenes, change the gender of characters, and fit the script to your troupe. I can even send you a list of recommended cuts if you need to shorten the show. Also, I allow you to make as many photocopies of the script as you need for cast and crew--at no additional fee.
While you must assemble your own live sound effects kit, my script's "SFX cookbook" section explains how to make each sound using items you can find in your town, on-line, or construct. Additionally, since I am a professional sound effects artist, I offer pre-recorded tracks of the more unusual sounds--(plunging into the river, glass breaking, crickets, cars, etc.) for a one-time fee. I also offer pre-recorded music tracks--using an authentic theater organ and piano--for a one-time fee. As stated above, sheet music for the original score is also available for troupes that want live accompaniment for their show.
If you want to produce Wonderful Life as a radio drama, you couldn't find a more authentic and resource-laden version than this.
It's A Wonderful Life! is radio veteran Tony Palermo's faithful radio drama adaptation of Frank Capra's classic film about dreams, sacrifice and redemption in small town America. Tony's imaginative radio adaptation has been performed by Hollywood professionals, radio stations, community theatre troupes, and schools across the world. This perennial holiday favorite works well as a live-on-stage performance--one that doesn't require elaborate sets or memorization. The live sound effects (mostly doors, bells, footsteps and vocal "walla walla") always delight live audiences. You can download pre-recorded sound effects (one time fee) and period-correct musical underscore tracks (one time fee) --as MP3 files. Sheet music is also available, matching the pre-recorded tracks of the score.
NOTE: The script includes a 60-page guide How to Produce 'Wonderful Life!' as a Radio-on-Stage Show. (sound effects "cookbook", casting monologues, engineering info, advice for live accompanists and more.)
Free "It's A Wonderful Life!" radio drama sample script - for
Here's a free, downloadable radio drama "Wonderful Life" sample script, including scene excerpts and a truncated version of the 60-page "How to Produce Radio-On-Stage Shows" appendix:
SCRIPT SAMPLE - RADIO DRAMA VERSION - It's A Wonderful Life! - TRUNCATED.pdf
You can view/print the sample radio script PDF with the free Adobe Acrobat Reader program, which works for PCs, Macs, and Android devices.
Tony's Notes On
Interpreting 'It's A Wonderful Life!'
Valuable information about how I've approached this adaptation and suggestions for how you handle your production.
Throughout the play, there are never more than 11 characters in a scene, so a small cast can easily perform the entire show. However, you can employ anywhere from 11 to 35 actors.
Maximum: 10 men, 9 women, [or 16 men-OR-women] and optionally, 2 boys and 2 girls
(but those roles can be handled by adults--as it was done in the golden age of radio.)
With doubling of roles, the 100-minute version has been done with only 11 actors (7 men, 4 women) In the sample script above, you will find a 60-page appendix with suggestions for doubling roles. The 60-minute version has been done by as few as 6 actors (4 men, two women).
Dreamer/Loan Officer (male)
Angel, Second Grade (male)
Absent-minded clerk (male)
Warped, old financier (male)
Local policeman (male)
Cab driver (male)
Successful businessman (male)
George’s father (male)
George’s younger brother (male)
Irate husband (male)
Mary Hatch Bailey
George’s Wife/Librarian (female)
Sultry gal (female) - only appears in the 100-minute version.
George’s mother (female)
Loan office clerk (female)
Mary’s mother (female)
Girl, age 5 (female)
Girl, age 8 (female)
DR. CAMPBELL Board President (male/female)
Boss of Angels (male/female)
Radio announcer (male/female)
Italian café owner (male/female)
Difficult shareholder (male/female)
Young George Bailey
Boy, age 10 (male/female)
Bank clerk (male/female)
Loan office clerk (male/female) - only appears in the 100-minute version.
Bank Examiner (male/female)
Boy, age 9 (male/female)
Impatient neighbor (male/female)
County Sheriff (male/female)
Shareholder (male/female) - only appears in the 100-minute version.
ALSO: 1 or 2 on-stage SOUND EFFECTS ARTISTS for live SFX (and optionally, pre-recorded SFX)
ALSO: Sound technician to trigger pre-recorded music (and optionally, pre-recorded SFX)
OPTIONAL: Live keyboardist to play organ and piano using sheet music of the original score.
This show requires 1 or 2 sound effects artists who can perform the live SFX (and, optionally, trigger pre-recorded SFX, too.)
Live sound effects for "It's A Wonderful Life!" :
The full script offers detailed instructions on how to find/make them in the SFX cookbook section of the 60-page appendix.
TINGLING WIND CHIMES
PHONE HANDSET PICKED UP/HUNG UP
PHONE BEING DIALED
FOOTSTEPS ON SIDEWALK
ROBE BEING RIPPED
SHAKING FLOWER BUSH
JIMMY, THE TALKING BIRD
BELL ATTACHED TO DOOR RINGS
CREAKING DOOR OPENING
PHONOGRAPH CLICKED ON
NEEDLE SCRATCHES RECORD
ENVELOPE OF MONEY RUSTLED
CAB DOOR OPENS/SHUTS
FLAPPING BIRD WINGS
KNITTING NEEDLES QUIETLY KNITTING
TYPEWRITER (KEYS AND BELL)
NEWSPAPER FLEXED/HANDED OVER
FOOTSTEPS IN SNOW
MODEL BRIDGE BEING DESTROYED
PAPER HANDED OVER
BARROOM GLASSES CLINKING
CASH REGISTER KA-CHING & BELL
DRINKS BEING SET DOWN ON BAR
BOTTLE BEING SLAMMED DOWN ON BAR
CRASH OF TRASH CAN
WOMAN STAGGERS IN HIGH HEELS
FRANTIC POUNDING ON DOOR
SEARCHING A POCKET
CHAMPAGNE CORK POP
SMALL TEA BELL RUNG
Pre-recorded sound effects for "It's A Wonderful Life!" :
30 minutes of pre-recorded tracks (of sounds not easily produced live), available as downloadable MP3 files.
Icy splashes into pond
Gower’s phone rings (3X) – can be done live, also
Distant window shattered by rock #1
Distant window shattered by rock #2
Car pulls up, idles--under
Downtown Bedford Falls (Traffic)
Ernie’s cab pulls away from curb
“Buffalo Gals” 78 RPM record
Mary’s phone rings (20X) – can be done live, also
Interior of cab driving #1
Cab pulls over
Uncle Billy’s phone rings (1-½X) – can be live, also
Office phone rings (1-¼X) – can be done live, also
Potter’s clock ticking in background #1
Bailey phone rings (2X) – can be live, also
Potter’s clock ticking in background #2
Clarence jumps in river, splashes around
George jumps in river, splashes around
Magical harp glissando--UP
Downtown Pottersville (Traffic)
Interior of cab driving #2
Wind #2 (Cemetery)
Wind #3 (Bridge)
Magical harp glissando--DOWN
Samples of "Wonderful Life!" sound effects tracks:
DEMO - walk-through of a dozen "Wonderful Life!" ambience and action sound effects in one 2-minute clip.mp3 (2.2 MB)
- FX-03 Crickets and FX-06 Car pulls up - DEMO
- FX-05 "Buffalo Gals" 78-RPM record - DEMO
- FX-19 Clarence jumps in river and splashes - DEMO
- FX-23 Downtown Pottersville traffic - DEMO
Pre-recorded musical tracks for "It's A Wonderful Life!" :
36 minutes worth of Jonathan Green's original music--featuring 1940s theater organ, piano, accordion and jazz combo--available as downloadable MP3 files.
ALSO: Downloadable SHEET MUSIC for the organ and piano cues.See below for details...
Samples of the "Wonderful Life!" music cues:
DEMO - walk-through of a dozen "Wonderful Life!" music cues in one 5 minute clip
- MUS-11 Downtown Bedford Falls - DEMO
- MUS-28 Janie's Piano #2 - DEMO
- MUS-34 Act 2 Outro - DEMO
- MUS-37 Pottersville Street Scene - DEMO
Here's a list "Wonderful Life" music cues:
(BED) “Wonderful Overture" (Radio Theatre Theme)
(BED) “Wonderful Life Intro”
(BRIDGE) “Gower’s Sad Drugstore”
(BED) “Tender Moment”
(BRIDGE) “Up and Segue into “Heavenly”
(BRIDGE) Last 2 Bars of “Buffalo Gals” setup
(BRIDGE) “Tragic” into “Heavenly”
(BRIDGE) “Oh Well” segues to “Heavenly”
(BRIDGE) “Downtown Bedford Falls”
(BRIDGE) “From Violet to Mary”
(BRIDGE) “Wedding March Taxi”
(BED) “Act 1 Outro”
(BED) “Wonderful Life Act 2 Intro”
(BED) “Time Passing”
(BRIDGE) “Bride” to “Heavenly”
(BRIDGE) “Indignant” to “Sleepy”
(BRIDGE) “Baby” to “Heavenly”
(BED) “War Montage”
(BRIDGE) “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” - ends sourly
(BRIDGE) “Lost” to “Heavenly”
(BRIDGE) “Desperate” -- Let it Finish
(SOURCE) Janie Piano Practice - #1 - “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”
(SOURCE) Janie Piano Practice - #2 - “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”
(SOURCE) Janie Piano Practice - #3 - “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”
(BRIDGE) “Cruel” to “Heavenly”
(SOURCE) “Santa Lucia” on accordion--gets abruptly stopped
(BRIDGE) “Alone” to “Heavenly”
(BRIDGE) ACT 2 Outro --ends in suspense chord
(BED) “Act 3 Intro/“Dire Bridge”
(SOURCE) “Juke Joint Jingle Bells”--under entire scene
(SOURCE) “Pottersville Streetscene”--Jazz combo under entire scene
(BRIDGE) “I Know That Girl”
(BRIDGE) “Empty Granville House”
(GLISSANDO UP) “Magical Help”
(BRIDGE) “Escape” to “Mean Mother”
(BED) “Shattered” to “The Cemetery”
(BRIDGE) “Lightly” to “Old Maid”
(BED) “Lynch Mob” to “Redemption”
(BED) “Organ: Hark The Herald Angels Sing”
(BED) “Piano: Auld Lang Syne” – Janie playing
(BED) “Piano: Auld Lang Syne” – Regular playing (OPTIONAL)
(BED) “Organ: Auld Lang Syne” – Chorus only
(BED) “Organ:Auld Lang Syne” – Verse & 2 choruses (OPTIONAL)
Sheet Music for "It's A Wonderful Life" score:
I also offer sheet music that matches the above-described original score--to allow a single keyboardist to accompany your show--LIVE. The instrumentation consists of organ and piano. The score is delivered via e-mail as a PDF document. The book also contains info on how to get 1940s organ sounds and plans for building an organ "shell" to give modern keyboards a period-authentic look. NOTE: The accordion and jazz combo cues would be produced by pre-recorded tracks—included when you purchase the sheet music.
"It's A Wonderful Life!" Radio Drama Score:
Here's a sample downloadable radio drama sheet music excerpt:
SHEET MUSIC SAMPLE - RADIO DRAMA - It's A Wonderful Life Overture - TRUNCATED [PDF]