When Siena Widen shifts roles from spunky narrator to a more solemn Spirit of Christmas Past, she quickly puts on an icicle tiara.
When Jenny Fitts-Reynolds plays the Spirit of Christmas Present, she dons an evergreen wreath. And, with open arms, she invites Scrooge to see what is immediately in front of him – Christmas Eve.
To see how the Spirit of Christmas Future emerges in Durango Theatreworks’ stunning production of “A Christmas Carol: A Radio Play,” you will have to go see for yourself.
Running through this weekend at Fort Lewis College, the fast-moving adaptation of Charles Dickens’ classic by Nathan Jerkins is fresh and colorful. It’s set in the 1940s as a radio show with a narrator, multiple actors, an applause meter, and a sound effects team that brings wind, snowfall and crackling fire to life.
Credit Widen for literally sprucing up a tiered set flanked by twin staircases and topped with a balcony. Credit Director Michael McKelvey for unleashing his immense imagination into a fluid production with quicksilver performances from the entire cast.
The radio players move around, change pairings, wear a muffler, a hat or an apron to indicate place. A crackerjack sound effects team creates the texture of the show: footsteps, thunder, chimes, chains, adult party chatter, and the sparkle of children’s voices, singing or speaking, indoors or out.
WHAT: “A Christmas Carol: A Radio Play,” by Nathan Jerkins, presented by Durango Theatreworks, directed by Michael McKelvey.
WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday (Dec. ) and Saturday; 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday..
WHERE: Fort Lewis College MainStage Theatre, Drama Building, Rim Drive.
TICKETS: $15 to $25, available online at www.durangoconcerts.com or by phone 247-7657.
MORE INFORMATION: Visit www.durangotheatreworks.org.
In addition to the famous story of Scrooge’s awakening to generosity and the true meaning of Christmas, McKelvey has added radio commercials. But they are not ordinary commercials. McKelvey wrote and directed little dramas that are performed by the company just before and after intermission. Couched as mini tales, the stories brim with humor as they highlight real local sponsors. Four Corners Broadcasting, Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, The Durango Herald, Glacier Realty, Eolus Restaurant and Hermosa Café, among others. Each night, different commercials and are packed with humor, carrying on the lighthearted tone that underscores the whole production. McKelvey’s inventive add-ons provide unexpected merriment to this Dickensian stew.
Credit Linann Easley for creating the illusion of a Post-World War II sound studio. Her costumes range from three-piece suits to flowing rayon-print dresses. Credit Sound Designer Justin Hubbard for heightening to magic of the Foley Team. Hallie Denman, Holden Grace, and Melissa Mossinghoff function as the percussion section in an orchestra and never miss a cymbal, drumbeat, or slamming door. Credit Ryann Nunley for both subtle and spectacular lighting design.
The splendid ensemble operates as a team, wrapping up a complex holiday present with precise, well-turned characterizations: Matt Bodo ( a gruff, bitter, then joyfully transformed Ebenezer Scrooge); Mohriah James (a poignant Tiny Tim, and Belle, Charitable Woman, Party Guest and Man at Funeral); Oliver Kennedy (a spooky Jacob Marley, plus Fred, Peter, Man at Funeral and Undertaker); Connor Sheehan (a welcoming troubadour, plus Bob Cratchit, young Scrooge, and Old Joe), not to ignore Widen and Fitts-Reynolds plus the Foley Team who carol and party with the company..
From the moment Sheehan strolls on stage with his guitar to lead the audience in a song, the show brims with energy that is sustained for 90 minutes. Suitable for families, for old and young, for COVID-19 weary, this radio play is for all who relish an effervescent evening of theatrical magic.
Judith Reynolds is an arts journalist and member of the American Theatre Critics Association.