Picture a stage. A plush sofa behind an Art Deco coffee table stands beside an elegant serving cart with glass decanters filled with liquor. A piano sits off to the right. Nearer the piano, a table carries the weight of an odd assortment of simple objects. Chains. Old Coins. A tin can and a trowel poking out of it. Before the audience stands four solemn radiator microphones from the 1940s. Above the all this, signs bearing the words “Applause” and “On-Air” loom, waiting to be lit.
Such is the 1940s radio-studio setting for A Christmas Carol: A Live Radio Play, the new production of the yule-tide holiday ghost story from the Resident Theatre Company, the independent West Chester theatre company founded by Broadway veteran Kristin McLaughlin Mitchell.
First, a man enters from stage left, hangs his coat, sits at the piano, and begins rehearsing notes from a page of music he’s brought. Then a foley artist, or sound-effects artist, arrives to tinker with his materials, making sure they’ll be ready when needed. Soon, there are six actors on stage dressed in post-war costumes, making small chat as they go over lines.
After a five-minute cue, show-runner Jake Laurents (Alex G. Kunz) reminds the audience that this production of A Christmas Carol will be broadcast LIVE across the nation, and the studio audience should be free to laugh, to cry, and to applaud during the familiar Dickens holiday classic.
What follows is one of the most delightfully unpredictable versions of this holiday classic audiences are likely to see this season. The star of this radio drama is Spamalot alumnus Mark Woodard (King Arthur), who brings Lionel Barrymore’s old-school grandeur to the role of Scrooge. Mr. Woodard succeeds in making Scrooge hilariously ridiculous and also, at times, touchingly sympathetic.
Jacob Marley, The Ghosts of Christmas, Bob Cratchit, Tiny Tim, and many others are all played by a brilliant cast of professional actors during this 90-minute radio play. To say nothing of the live sound effects, played in a timely fashion by West Chester native Tom Wang.
A Christmas Carol: A Live Radio Play opens Dec. 15 at the Uptown! Knauer Performing Arts Center and runs through a final performance on New Years Eve.
Tickets and more information are available at RTCwc.org.