"Greetings from WBFR Studio A in Manhattan, N.Y., right here in the U.S. of A.," said Ryan Conner, a senior at Central Cabarrus High School, as he stood on the school's stage, reading from his script in a sing-song voice with the hint of a New York accent.
"Tonight, we bring you a real feel-good, heart-warmer perfect for this or any Christmas Eve, 'It's a Wonderful Life.' We begin our story in the little town of Bedford Falls, N.Y., where a number of people in the town are praying for their dear friend, a typical American named George Bailey..."
Central Cabarrus High School theater students will perform "It's a Wonderful Life," an adaptation of the classic 1946 film, 6:30 p.m. Dec. 18-19 at the high school. Tickets are $5.
The six-actor performance will be in the style of a 1940s radio show, which broadcast actors' performances in front of a live audience.
Students will even use an "applause" sign to indicate to the audience when they should clap, and advertisements will interrupt the actors.
"The audience can participate the way they would have back then," said Brianna Smith, Central Cabarrus High School's instructor of dramatic arts. "It's a totally different format."
The show will tell the story of George Bailey, a man who is prevented from committing suicide on Christmas Eve by his guardian angel, who shows him what the world would have been like had Bailey never been born.
This is the theater department's third major production this year, but it's not an elaborate one. Students won't perform in the high school's theater. Instead, they will create a stage in the cafeteria where the audience can have dessert and coffee during the performance. Aside from a piano, chairs and microphones, props will be sparse, and no costume changes will be necessary.
The focal point of the performance is the actors' voices. Although two students will perform only one role each, the actors have an average of 10 characters to perform. They have to use different voices to allow the audience to differentiate between the characters.
"It's all about them creating characters with their voices," Smith said. "It's a teaching opportunity."
Because it's radio-style, the students don't have to memorize their scripts. They can hold their lines in front of them during their performance - just as radio performers did. And in the small cafeteria space, the actors won't necessarily need microphones, but Smith said the mechanical sound they produce will help recreate the sounds of a 1940s show.
At rehearsal last week, students sorted through a pile of vests, pencil skirts, vests and lace gloves, searching for pieces to complete their costumes. They also worked to perfect the different voices they will use.
Senior Madison McKinney practiced the role of Violet, a flirtatious young girl. Smith instructed her to make Violet's voice more light and bouncy.
"She's not a sultry seductress," Smith told McKinney as the actors laughed.
McKinney will perform the roles of four characters who range significantly in age. She has to use four distinctive voices.
"It's interesting," she said. "You have to find balance."