Christmas radio play opens Friday in Hope

Connie Kiviniemi-Baylor heads Passion for Acting Theatre Company and will direct the upcoming “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Radio Play” at Willow Leaves of Hope.

HOPE — A popular, partly comic variation on a Christmas classic returns to Bartholomew County on Friday.

The local Passion For Acting Theatre Company, under the direction of Connie Kiviniemi-Baylor, will present a dinner theater production of J0e Landry’s “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play” at Willow Leaves, 326 Jackson St. in Hope.

The reader’s-theater show was presented by director Robert Hay-Smith to enthusiastic and interactive audiences for several years beginning in 2015 at the former Harlequin Theatre in the former FairOaks Mall in Columbus.

The play is balanced between the silly and the sentimental, set in a 1946 radio studio. Eight actors play more than 30 characters in the throwback production that previously included radio commercials from that period.

Cast members openly read from a script very similar to the movie in which a guardian angel shows George Bailey the tremendous impact of his life — to the point that Bailey decides to go on living after contemplating suicide in the wake of emotional trauma.

Kiviniemi-Baylor was in one of the Harlequin productions and loved it.

“Such fun,” she said. “I have a great cast to bring this heart-warming classic to life. … And I’ll even be onstage a few nights when one of my actresses isn’t available because of prior commitments.”

Her cast includes son Alex Baylor as George Bailey. He is once again impressing the director with his ability to become the character.

Shows will be at 6 p.m. Dec. 8-9 and Dec. 15-16 and at 1 p.m. Dec. 10 and 17. Tickets are $35.