Sunday, December 2, 2012

REVIEW: Love Street Playhouse Presents a Real Present in a Classic "A Christmas Carol" Radio Show

A CHRISTMAS CAROL is now playing at the Love Street Playhouse in Woodland, Wash. But this time the oft-told tale of Charles Dickens' 1843 novel is presented as a 1940s radio adaptation complete with live sound effects, radio commercials and music.

You're thinking yeah, big deal, right? You've seen "A Christmas Carol" countless times in numerous iterations--including the Muppets. Why do it again? Because you LOVE this redemptive story! And because it's so fun to see this "live and on the air from coast to coast."

All your favorite characters are here from Scrooge, Marley's Ghost, Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim to the Ghosts of Past, Present and Future. Plus the Love Street cast entertains the audience with beautiful Christmas songs from the 1940s. AND there's a traditional visit from you-know-who before the show, so arrive when the doors open.

It Was All But Dead to Begin With

Beginning with a beloved story and a great cast the show was off to a good start.

If you been to LSP before you'll see faces from the past: Lori, Laurel and Andrew Anderson, Tom Golik, Melissa Mitchell, Karen Ferraro and Michael McElliott. Always enjoyable to see these talented players. And there are new faces bringing new and delightful talent as well.

Andrew Anderson is definitely growing as an actor, every time I see him I am surprised by the new things he brings to the stage. He was especially good with his voices for Peter Cratchit and Poole (he also plays the young Scrooge and Fred).

Lori Anderson is a great character actress and such a good sport. She's quite funny (on and off stage) and will give you everything she's got. In this production she gets to play two guys: Old Joe and the Ghost of Christmas Present. Which I kinda got a kick out of, but with her I always do.

Front from left: Laurel and Lori Anderson and Melissa Mitchell
haggle about the possessions of the departed Scrooge.
Laurel Anderson is my favorite young SW Washington actress. She is fearless and a talented natural. (She probably gets it from her mother, Lori.) She often plays the romantic leading lady type, but this time she portrays Mrs. Cratchit, Lamb and Charwoman. As Cratchit she displays a depth of emotion and her Charwoman was gritty and wicked. And her pre-show performance (singing and dancing) was superb!

Golik plays the Ghost of Christmas Future (no dialogue there), the radio announcer, Fezziwig and Marley's Ghost. His warm voice makes for a good announcer, but, knowing Tom, he had fun with the spooky aspects of Marley.

Ferraro deftly performs the dramatic story narration. Mitchell plays Martha Cratchit, a party guest and Mrs Dilber very nicely--especially Dilber.

Michael McElliott? Well, he plays Scrooge. Wonderfully. Carrying much of the show, naturally, a lot of concentration and energy is required as he transforms from sinner to saint and McElliott did it.

Brendan Rearden as Bob Cratchit holds
Lucas Smith as Tiny Tim.
The newcomers were also quite good and had the "smaller" roles (there are no small roles, only small actors). Nine year-old Jasmine "Jazzy" Erickson  was delightful as Fan Scrooge and Belinda Cratchit. Mary Jane Wilkinson filled the roles of party guest and a businesswoman, though she was oft busy making sound effects as well--something all members of the cast participated in, by the way.

The newcomer standouts were: Brendan Reardon as Bob Cratchit and the Ghost of Christmas Past which he did quite well. Madeline Hunter performed her parts as Kate and Belle with grace and charm. She also has a lovely voice which she offers pre-show.

But the cream of the crop was eight year-old Lucas Smith as Buck, a caroler and...Tiny Tim. Wow! He was the bestest Tiny Tim I have ever heard/seen. Yeah, this kid nailed it!

I Will Show You the Things to Come

If you go, and you should (in fact take the whole family), expect to be truly entertained. It is so fun to watch the actors change characters and see them provide the many live sound effects.

The adaption for stage by Anthony E. Palermo is nicly done, but somewhat abridged (it runs just one hour). Some of the famous lines you know ("Marley was dead to begin with," "It's the only warmth he 'ad in 'im," etc.) are sadly missing. Palermo also composed and arrange the music score that accompanies the show and it is great. It underscores the scary moments, the transformational moments, the festive moments, etc. with the perfect mood.

The set, a 1940s radio station studio, wasn't perfect--a lot of it wasn't very 1940s--but it sufficed. I guess I've just come to expect a little better from LSP. The lighting and sound all came off well.

Love Street Has Again Blessed Us All, Everyone

Melinda Leuthold, Love Street's Artistic Director, directed the show. While not a lot of blocking was required she brought out the character performances, did the sound design, set, costuming and more. Ruth Lindeken's choreography, performed by Laurel Anderson, was cute.

This is a show that will entertain and warm your heart. I suppose it is a story that should be seen each Christmas--a tradition as traditional as lights, decorated trees, gift-giving, going to church and family dinner.

WARNING: I do think some of the ghostly moments might upset sensitive children; they were scary to me.

Dates and Times: December 7, 8, 13, 14 and 15 at 7:30 p.m. and December 2, 9 and 16 at 2 p.m. Again  the show runs one hour. Doors open one hour before curtain.

Advance tickets are $11-15. Call to reserve: 360.907.9996 or go to

Review by Gregory E. Zschomler
All Photographs by Darcie Elliott provided

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