By Jeff Clemetson | Editor
Lamplighters Theatre recreates Orson Welles’ 1939 ‘A Christmas Carol’
The Lamplighters Theatre wants to take you back in time for the holidays.
Starting Nov. 27 and running through Dec. 20 on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m., the theater is presenting a stage adaptation of a 1939 broadcast of “Orson Welles presents ‘A Christmas Carol’ Radio Show.”
Although the stage show is recreating radio, director Robin Pollock said audiences shouldn’t expect stiff performances from the actors.
“A major challenge of the show is making it interesting because if you hear a radio show, it is very alive because you are using total imagination to paint the picture,” she said “We’re doing a radio show with an audience, so we’re trying to create as much of the characters as we can while they’re doing the show. So it is a bit of a challenge for the actors because they go ‘I’m a radio actor but I’m also sort of acting out the characters.’ So it’s about trying to find a balance to that so it’s still entertaining for the audience to watch it. That’s a huge challenge actually.”
To find that balance, Pollock and the cast did their homework to find inspiration and make the stage production come alive.
“We all studied pictures of the radio actors so we could see that they don’t just stand at the microphones and say their lines, they were emoting and doing gestures and body movements.”
Unlike standard stage productions of “A Christmas Carol” that stick to the British accents and Victorian mannerisms of Charles Dickens’ day when he wrote the book, Pollock said the Lamplighters production used the creative license of Welles’ 1939 broadcast which the cast studied by listening to recordings.
“You can actually get online and type in ‘Orson Welles radio show 1939’ and it’s there,” she said. “So you can hear it and it’s Lionel Barrymore as Scrooge and it’s really corny and so we’re trying to keep the corniness and the campiness and have the actors in 1939 costumes and they’re playing these Victorian-era characters.”
Pollock said she wants audiences to experience what a show was like in radio days, which was very “organic” compared to the today’s virtual entertainment of YouTube videos. One of the ways the production is recreating the organic nature of radio is the use of sound effects, emphasized by actor Robert Burton
“Our sound guy is hilarious, he’s a total ham,” she said. “He stands up and he’s got the gong going and it sounds like church bells, but it’s a tin bowl, and he’s banging it. When Marley (played by Ray Lynch) is on, there are all these chain sounds with the wailing sounds, so it’s a real in-the-now experience.”
Remaking “A Christmas Carol” is nothing new. Recent examples include “Scrooged,” starring Bill Murray and even an animated version by Disney, starring Jim Carrey. “There are so many versions of it. Anyone can do it and it’s been done in so many ways and we’re just putting a different spin on it,” she said
Pollock’s own spin on the classic story was partly out of necessity. “I had to add some scenes back in because the original radio show was only an hour,” she said.
The end result is a unique take on a holiday classic, and that is what Pollock hopes audiences enjoy about the production the most.
“There’s nothing bad in it. It’s family entertainment,” she said. “It’s just all about Christmas. If you want to see a Christmassy show that’s filled with Christmas, this is it.”
“Orson Welles presents ‘A Christmas Carol’ Radio Show” stars Larry E. Fox as Orson Welles; Jeff Duncan as Scrooge; Danny Deuprey as Bob Cratchit; Max Patag as Tiny Tim; Sarah Williams as Belle and Mrs. Dibler; Donalee Brayman as Ghost of Christmas Past and Mrs. Cratchit; Terrence J. Burke as Fred Dibler; Steve Jensen as Ghost of Christmas Present and Oscar; and many more.
The show runs from Nov. 27 through Dec. 20 on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. at the Lamplighters Community Theatre located at 5915 Severin Drive in La Mesa. Tickets are $20 for adults and $17 for seniors, students and active military and can be purchased online at lamplighterslamesa.com or by calling 619-303-5092.
––Write to Jeff Clemetson at email@example.com.