A comedy-drama-musical treat for Vashon audiences of all ages arrives just in time for full-out holiday fun. Opening Friday, Dec. 20 at 7 pm, “A 1940s Radio Christmas Carol” brightens the stage at Vashon Center for the Arts for five shows over the next two weekends. The pandemonium of a live 1943 radio show replete with eccentric, loveable characters and a bucket of great swing-era songs marks Drama Dock’s holiday gift to the Vashon community.
Directed by Elise and Marita Ericksen, the show features an all-Island cast of familiar favorite Vashon performers along with some actors and singers brand new to the wonderful world of community theatre. They include Rich Wiley, Joel Kutzke, Hailey Quackenbush, Christopher, Dawn and Gabriel Dawson, Jesse Whitford, Lisa Peretti, Shannon Flora, Erica Wagner, Sue DeNies, Russell Baker and Paul Stephenson; Marita Ericksen appears as “Toots Navarre,” the musical director, composer and pianist for WOV-Radio.
The story is a convoluted confection right out of the Golden Age of Radio, and the action on stage will take the audience back to the zany sweetness of that era. The time is December 24, 1943, and the Feddington Players are set to present their contemporary on-air version of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” The Players have been banished from their New York City studio and are now broadcasting live from WOV-Radio, a hole-in-the-wall satellite studio in the lobby of Hotel Aberdeen in Newark, New Jersey. Whether it’s the rattle of bad plumbing, missed cues, electrical blackouts, or the over-the-top theatrics of William St. Claire (a veteran actor, but radio novice, played by Rich Wiley), this radio show is steeped in all the unpredictable mayhem of live radio of that time. As an added treat, audiences will be entertained by the astonishing variety of special effects produced by WOV’s “sound effectician,” Isadore “Buzz” Crenshaw (played by Jesse Whitford).
Ranging across the America-at-war landscape of 1943, the characters in “A 1940s Radio Christmas Carol” are a slice-of-life of men and women of that time, both tragic and comic. Many have day jobs and make their way to the tattered Newark WOV-Radio studio after hours to perform in various on-air skits and other radio theatre antics. Guest performer for the WOV Christmas Eve show is William St. Claire, a retired star of stage and screen who looks down on radio as one of the bastard children of the stage. Fittingly, St. Claire is cast as Scrooge; his escalating foibles and acting missteps propel the show to a funny yet heartbreaking climax. St. Claire has an on-air breakdown and begins to connect his own life with that of the classic Dickens’ character. In order to “save the show,” the Feddington Players improvise a wacky, masterful ending to the Dickens’ story in the guise of a film noir mystery, taking everyone on an unexpected wild ride.
Combining the melodic and lyrical delights of swing-era music with dramatic, crazy plot twists, “A 1940s Radio Christmas Carol” serves up many funny moments, some heartbreak and much hope. The show aims to capture Drama Dock’s essential mission for Vashon audiences who love live theater.
Performances are Friday, Dec. 20 and Saturdays, Dec. 21 and 28 at 7 pm; Sundays, Dec. 22 & 29 at 1 pm. A “pay what you will” performance is Friday, Dec. 27 at 7 pm.