Feeling Christmasy yet? PURE Theatre is here to help get you in the mood with a stage version of It’s a Wonderful Life, the Jimmy Stewart-Frank Capra classic about a good man who fails to understand how his life has positively impacted the people around him. But this stage version is quite different from the movie, and not for the obvious reasons — it’s being performed as a 1940s-style radio drama, with actors playing multiple parts around microphone stands.

PURE co-founder Rodney Lee Rogers stars as George Bailey, a man at the end of his rope on Christmas Eve. He’s contemplating suicide when he meets Clarence Odbody (played by Paul Garbarini). Clarence introduces himself as an angel and shows George what the town of Bedford Falls would have been like if moping Mr. Bailey had never been born.

PURE’s big challenge with this play is to keep the audience engaged when they know what’s going to happen. Those unlucky enough not to have seen the classic 1946 movie have probably caught one of its many rip-offs or homages, from Back to the Future Part II to The Family Man. PURE’s main asset is their cast — or rather, the lack of a big one. Between them, five actors play approximately 50 characters and add live sound effects in what aims to be a hectic, humorous frenzy of activity, just like in the golden days of radio.

Susan Kattwinkel, who appeared in the Village Playhouse’s Twilight Zone adaptation, co-stars as the love of George’s life, Mary Bailey, along with several other roles. Another Playhouse regular, Nat Jones, most notably takes on the role of George’s nemesis Henry Potter. Jan Gilbert (Violet and other roles) is another familiar face on the local theater scene; this spring she appeared in The Producers at Charleston Stage, another live version of a well-known film.

By presenting a play with a familiar title, PURE and the other theaters mentioned above are following Broadway’s lead. Common sense dictates that audiences are more likely to go to shows with recognizable elements than ones that are new and unknown. Regional theater has no hope of competing with New York production values, but it still needs to draw in crowds. Why not use movie titles to draw in an increasingly film-literate public? The Village Playhouse’s adaptation of A Christmas Story was a solid reminder that the tactic can work; it was so popular in 2007 that the Playhouse remounted it in 2008.

But there’s more to It’s a Wonderful Life than its household name. It’s surprising how many memorable characters are packed into the story: absentminded Uncle Billy; Bert the Cop; Ernie the cabbie; and George’s petal-pushing daughter, Zuzu.

Adapter Joe Landry also penned Reefer Madness and Hollywood Babylon, both hits with Charleston audiences at other venues. He retains that the warm and fuzzy theme of the film, and that same feeling drives this compellingly character-driven narrative. Mark Landis directs this PURE production.

As usual, PURE will be running different initiatives to encourage people to come to the shows. On Dec. 3, the V-Tones will perform. “Student rush” tickets are available — if there are any left — for students on the night of each show. The matinee performance will have a BYOB (Bring Your Own Baby) nursery for parents who want to see the play or just take a break for an hour and a half.