Life is ‘Wonderful’ whether onstage or online

Life is ‘Wonderful’ whether onstage on online
Don Tieck creates many ingenious sound effects using household items in Contra Costa Civic Theatre’s “It’s a Wonderful Life,” streaming through Dec. 20. (Photo by Ben Krantz)

Columns Sally Hogarty Stage StruckCONTRA COSTA COUNTY—Even COVID can’t stop local theater, as several companies have managed to create holiday treats online.

One of my favorites is the radio play “It’s a Wonderful Life,” streaming through Dec. 20 at Contra Costa Civic Theatre (CCCT).

The company recreates the feel-good vibe with a new filmed version of the Frank Capra classic about George Bailey, a good man who has fallen on hard times, and Clarence, the guardian angel who tries to save him.

CCCT kept all the fun aspects of the live show, including the singing commercials (nicely performed by Kim Donovan and Merrill Grant) and the folio sound effects, where a variety of household objects and one very busy man (Don Tieck) supply all the noises needed.

Five talented actors bring the town of Bedford Falls to life: Fred Pitts as Fred Bailey, Keith Jefferds as Clarence, Donovan as Zuzu, Grant as George’s wife Mary and Kendall Tieck as Mr. Potter.

All the performers except Pitts play multiple roles. In fact, part of the fun is watching them switch quickly from one part to another using only their facial expressions and voices. It’s most humorous when the delightful Kendall Tieck plays two people having an argument with each other.

Director David Bogdonoff and his crew also keep the visuals interesting as they create various “stage” pictures by moving the actors’ squares into different configurations.

“It’s a Wonderful Life” runs 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays at 2 p.m. Sundays through Dec. 20. For tickets, go to

Christmas Jaunts and Jingles

Malcolm Cowler is Santa Claus in the Orinda Starlight Village Players’ interactive show “Christmas Jaunts and Jingles,” playing online Tuesdays and Thursdays through December. (Photo courtesy Orinda Starlight Village Players)

Another fun show features a familiar jolly man in a red suit. It’s Santa, of course, and he’s beside himself at the North Pole because his lead reindeer, Nosey Parker, has disappeared. Toys seem to be disappearing as well.

What’s a Santa to do? Ask for help, of course. And that’s exactly what happens in the Orinda Starlight Village Players latest interactive online entertainment, designed for younger audiences. “Christmas Jaunts and Jingles” runs 7 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays through December.

I was fortunate to attend an online rehearsal to watch the dedicated thespians work out various technical challenges as they changed backdrops, lighting and disguises. As with previous shows, this one includes a variety of games and puzzles audience members must solve. With the show aimed at pre-teens and all those young at heart, I found myself able to answer most of the puzzles and games – although one totally stumped me.

The characters also appeal to the younger set, with several elves, a fairy (with great wings), a snowman, a penguin, a toy soldier, a gingerbread lady and, naturally, Santa and Mrs. Claus and their daughter Belle.

Malcolm Cowler directs, with Barry Hunau supplying the lovely graphics. For reservations, go to or email

Steadfast Tin Soldier

Anthony Irons, left, Joe Dempsey and John Gregorio appear in “The Steadfast Tin Soldier,” streaming at Berkeley Rep through Dec. 27. (Photo by Liz Lauren)

Exciting visuals and colorful characters mark Berkeley Rep’s production of Mary Zimmerman’s “The Steadfast Tin Soldier,” streaming through Dec. 27. Produced by Lookingglass Theatre Company, the show is based on Hans Christian Andersen’s story about a little tin soldier who never gives up.

Online access to the show is $25 (free to Berkeley Rep 2021 subscribers). The fee includes one livestream on-demand video for 48 hours afterward. Go to for tickets.

Sally Hogarty is well known around the Bay Area as a newspaper columnist, theatre critic and working actress. She is the editor of the Orinda News. Send comments to