Veteran actor reprises George Bailey role at Wheaton Drama

The annual holiday fundraiser is once again a 1940s-style radio play version of “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and Geoffrey Maher returns as the big-hearted everyman.

Geoffrey Maher as George Bailey and Gwen Royle as ZuZu Bailey
Geoffrey Maher as George Bailey and Gwen Royle as ZuZu Bailey

In what is rapidly becoming a Yuletide tradition, Wheaton Drama is again mounting a radio play version of “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
Featured as George Bailey for the second year in a row is seasoned actor Geoffrey Maher of Arlington Heights, who took time out to discuss his part in the production:

Wheaton Drama: Why reprise the role?
Geoffrey Maher: “It’s the most iconic Christmas role. Everyone knows who George Bailey is. Last year was so much fun. The audience response was tremendous. People came up to me afterward and said how much they liked it or how much it reminded them of the radio shows of their youth.”

Wheaton Drama: What makes the character so enticing for an actor?
Geoffrey Maher: “George goes through so many challenges and changes. George has an amazing character arc.”

Wheaton Drama: What makes the character so appealing to audiences?
Geoffrey Maher: “It’s George’s humanity and integrity. He’s always looking out for others at the expense of himself. People aspire to be good, like George.”

Wheaton Drama: This is a radio show. How do you connect with the other actors with no body language or eye contact, just the voices?
Geoffrey Maher: “There is a little bit of body language. Most of the acting is done through the modulation, intonation, tone and volume of the voice. You strive to make it sound as natural as possible.”

Wheaton Drama: What’s different about this year’s show versus last year’s show?
Geoffrey Maher: “The script is the same. This year there are a few different cast members. I’m very excited to see how it will be received.”

Wheaton Drama: You’re overlapping three shows right now. How do you keep them straight?
Geoffrey Maher: “It helps to memorize my lines early. I was fortunate enough that when I was cast in ‘And Then There Were None’ [running at Wheaton Drama from Jan. 24 to Feb. 16] that the director [Randy Knott] is also in ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ and was very sympathetic to my schedule, as was the other show’s director. So far it’s worked out ok, but I am exhausted.”

Wheaton Drama: How is your performance inspired by James Stewart’s?
Geoffrey Maher: “James Stewart was Everyman. I play off his humbleness, earnestness, and naturalness. He really goes through an arc. He plays it low-key when necessary, then he gets really stressed and strained when required.”

Wheaton Drama: Why do “It’s a Wonderful Life” as opposed to “A Christmas Carol”?
Geoffrey Maher: “‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ is fresher, more contemporary and relatable. All of the characters are open to interpretation.”

Wheaton Drama, which has delivered topnotch theater to audiences for more than 80 years, will present “It’s a Wonderful Life” from Dec. 12 through Dec. 15. The staged radio show adaptation will run five performances: Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evening at 8 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday matinees at 3 p.m., with all shows at Playhouse 111, located at 111 N. Hale St., Wheaton, IL.
General admission tickets for this holiday fundraiser are $10. In the lobby there will be raffles and other opportunities for patrons to take home special goodies while helping Wheaton Drama to continue its tradition of outstanding theatrical productions. Patrons can order tickets or get further information at or by calling 630-260-1820.
This article was written by Margie Gustafson for Wheaton Drama Inc., a 501(c)(3) charitable organization.