"It's A Wonderful Life" Radio Drama Script, Music & Sound Effects
by Tony Palermo
Also available: Stage play version of "It's a Wonderful Life"
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 1600 radio 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 acts. 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, 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 is based upon the venue (school, stage, recording, or broadcast) and the number of performances/broadcasts. Contact me at and tell me about your intended production for a quote. Sample copies of the script are available as PDF files. (See the link below.)
I accept payments via the free and secure www.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 either be downloaded as MP3 files, or shipped via regular mail in the form of audio CDs. 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 in your town.
As an experienced theater pro, I understand that sometimes changes need to be made to fit a troupe's resources--and cast makeup. 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.
You may also be interested in my other plays--for the stage, or radio-on-stage:
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.)
Above, Michael Richards, Sara Rue, Susan Sullivan and Orson Bean appearing in a 2005 production of Tony's adaptation of It's a Wonderful Life. Other productions from Tony's script starred Alfred Molina, Brooke Adams and Tony Shalhoub, as well as another run, starring Joe Mantegna, Sharon Lawrence, Fred Willard, and Jamie Farr.
Free "It's A Wonderful Life" radio drama sample script:
You can view/print the script, which is in the PDF format, via the free Adobe Acrobat reader program, which works for PCs and Macs. http://www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/readstep2_allversions.html
Tony's Notes On
Interpreting 'It's A Wonderful Life'
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, 16 men-OR-women, and optionally, 2 boys and 2 girls
(but those roles can be handled by adults--as in the golden age of radio.)
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":
Pre-recorded sound effects for "It's A Wonderful Life":
Pre-recorded musical tracks for "It's A Wonderful Life":
ALSO: Downloadable SHEET MUSIC for the organ and piano cues. See below for details...
Here's a free MP3 clip demonstrating the "Wonderful Life" score's authentic radio organ and how it
accompanies the show's intro:
Here's a sample of the sheet music for the above cue:
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.
Free "It's A Wonderful Life" Radio Drama Score:
ALSO: Many troupes find it useful to purchase both the sheet music AND the pre-recorded music tracks—since this allows the actors and crew to rehearse the full show without having the accompanist present at every rehearsal.
TONY PALERMO is an audio
theatre producer, performer, and educator living in Los Angeles, California.