Like a lot of people confused and dismayed by the world today, Anita Stewart wonders what she can do to make a difference. As artistic and executive director of Portland Stage Company, she’s using whatever influence she has to reinforce the idea that individuals can impact the world in positive ways by doing good deeds, big and small, in their daily lives.

This season, Portland Stage breaks from its long tradition of presenting “A Christmas Carol” and “The Snow Queen” in alternating years and will stage a new production of an old story, “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play.” It opens Friday and continues through Christmas Eve.

This production reworks the classic holiday film starring Jimmy Stewart and is set in a 1940s radio studio with a cast of five actors playing multiple roles and creating sound effects. The production includes a supporting cast of local children. Together, they tell George Bailey’s story of redemption, renewal and rejuvenation.

“The show is a story of everyman,” said Stewart, who directs the show and designed the set. “It’s the story of an average, ordinary guy who makes a huge difference in people’s lives. In this day and age, when you may think that what you are doing or saying doesn’t have any meaning, this story lays out how every single one of us can make a difference. It’s how you choose to live your life that can make a difference.”

She described the new production as a theatrical cross between NPR’s “A Prairie Home Companion” and “This American Life,” where stories told on the radio come to life and where the audience becomes part of the experience. Portland Stage won’t broadcast its show, but it will portray what a broadcast felt like in the 1940s when the movie was released.

The actors inhabit several characters with their voices and include local favorites Daniel Noel and Dustin Tucker. The other cast members are David Mason, Courtney Moors and Emma O’Donnell. Playwright Joe Landry adapted the script for this production.

The key elements of the movie are intact. George Bailey has given up his dreams to help others, but finds himself on the verge of suicide on Christmas Eve.

His guardian angel shows up and reminds George of all the lives he has touched and the ways he has improved his community of Bedford Falls.

“It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play,” Portland Stage Company, 25A Forest Ave., Portland; Friday through Dec. 24; $38 to $65, or 774-0465

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