It’s A Wonderful Life, for anyone who has accidentally missed the 20th century, was originally a 1946 movie directed by Frank Capra starring Jimmy Stewart, Donna Reed, and Lionel Barrymore. This weekend, the Vineyard Playhouse is rebooting the story as a radio drama written by Phillip Grecian, the kind where the audience is stationed in front of a clutter of equipment and watches while a character actor takes out a stick of gum and chomps on it, and the sound guy hits the glockenspiel.

The absolute star of the show, beyond George and Clarence and the cute little kids who will be performing for the first time, is Jim Novak, the guy at the helm of the sound effects. He will also have energetic assistance from Paul Munafo and Jihan Porti as the trio rubs kitty litter to approximate the sound of boots crunching in the snow, grinds salad spinners to become the engines of old jalopies, and slops a reversed-cup plunger into a bucket of water for when characters, frequently, splash into the river.

The radio play has been performed before at the Playhouse but with construction underway at the building, this year’s performance will be held at the Performing Arts Center at the regional high school.

Reached by phone recently at his house in West Tisbury, Mr. Novak admitted he had no idea how these sound cues will translate to the larger arena. “We’ve got a mic set up in the bucket of water — just have to hope it doesn’t short out.”

Christopher Kann reprises his role of George Bailey, the sweet guy with everything to live for, were it not for the fact that financial ruin is staring him in the face. Cue the dark bridge on a snowy Christmas Eve as George gets ready to hurl himself into the abyss.

Don Lyons returns in his oleaginous role as Mr. Potter, the vile banker, and radio personality Arnie Reisman, who along with his wife, Paula, stars in NPR’s Says You, plays the role of Clarence, the angel who has waited 300 years to earn his wings.

“To play Clarence, I’m getting in touch with my inner angel,” Mr. Reisman said. “In the movie, Henry Travers was perfect. The wispy hair, the round face, the snowy eyebrows, the sweet demeanor. Since I can’t duplicate the first three, I’m going for that last one.”

Chelsea McCarthy will transform herself into Mary Bailey, George’s devoted wife, and the part of the young ingénue, Violet, is played by Anna Yukevich, a senior at the high school. Reached by phone the other day in the journalism office at the school, Miss Yukevich said she was excited by this grownup role. She first began acting at the Playhouse in the third grade.

“I was Randy, a boy, in A Christmas Story,” she said. “I had to cut my hair for the part, and I didn’t mind at all.”

Since her debut role, Miss Yukevich has appeared twice in A Christmas Story, twice as Gerta in The Snow Queen, and once as the young Mary in It’s A Wonderful Life. She has also starred in numerous summer shows too.

For each production, Rob Myers writes musical blurbs for Island businesses in the style of 1940s radio ads. Retailers enrolled thus far are C.B. Stark, Vineyard Bottled Waters, Tisbury Printer, and the Scottish Bakehouse. Wes Nagy stands at the ready with musical accompaniment, jingles actually, on his keyboard.

Earlier in the week, with the performances looming just days away, the director MJ Bruder Munafo was stationed in New York city. It has been a busy week for her as many Playhouse alumni are hitting the big time at this very moment. Lydia Diamond‘s play Stick Fly, which the Playhouse did a reading of in August of 2010, just opened on Broadway and Dick and Lola by Debra Monk, premiering last summer here, had a staged reading at the Roundabout Theatre. In addition, “Kate Feiffer and I are meeting with a composer and lyricist for a musical of Kate’s book My Mom Is Trying to Ruin My Life,” she said.

Too bad It’s a Wonderful Life has already been discovered.

Performances of It’s a Wonderful Life, The Radio Play take place at the Performing Arts Center at the regional high school on Saturday, Dec. 17, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 18, at 1 p.m. Tickets are $20 general admission, $15 for seniors 65 and over, and $15 for juniors 18 and younger, available in advance online at or at the door. The show is recommended for ages eight and up. Group and family discounts available.