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BWW Review: A CHRISTMAS CAROL: THE LIVE RADIO PLAY at Alliance Theatre

A Delightful Radio Play Drives Into Summerhill

BWW Review: A CHRISTMAS CAROL:  THE LIVE RADIO PLAY at Alliance Theatre
Actor Brad Raymond
Photo by Greg Mooney

With few exceptions, professional theatres in America have been unable to offer traditional live performance options for nearly nine months. In case you haven't been keeping track, that's the longest closure that American theatre has ever experienced. Atlanta theatre companies have worked hard to adapt to the challenges of the current public health crisis, mostly through streaming and Zoom offerings, but this month the Alliance Theatre has officially welcomed back a key source of public entertainment: live and in-person theatre. Their delightfully interactive and creative new production of A Christmas Carol: The Live Radio Play, under the direction of Leora Morris and performed by a talented cast of only three actors and a very busy foley artist, is playing in the unlikeliest of places, a parking lot in the Summerhill neighborhood of Atlanta. Having seen many prior productions of A Christmas Carol, from stuffy and overstaged professional productions to earnest church productions, I can say with surety that this new safety-centric drive-in production, where patrons watch the performance from the safety and comfort of their own cars or designated accompanying tailgating spaces, has all the essential components of joy-inducing holiday fare.

The story is a familiar one. Miserly Ebenezer Scrooge sits at his desk on Christmas Eve, counting his money as he hurls insults and refuses requests for charitable assistance. When Scrooge receives a visit from his dead business partner, Jacob Marley, Scrooge learns that three spirits will visit him to show him his past, present, and future. Scrooge, impacted greatly by what he learns, begins to seek redemption.

BWW Review: A CHRISTMAS CAROL:  THE LIVE RADIO PLAY at Alliance Theatre
The Cast of A Christmas Carol: The Live Radio Play
Photo by Greg Mooney

The staging of the radio play, which is almost wholly dependent upon the talent of its storytellers, is visually interesting. Members of the small cast are housed in separate crate-like structures where they are visible to the drive-in audience but socially distanced from both the audience and the other cast members for maximum safety. We can see them doing the business of the playing, but they are also projected onto large screens that allow even the back rows to see their faces clearly. Christmas-y lights complete the holiday picture.

Jeremy Aggers, Jeanette Illidge, Brad Raymond, and Stuart W. Gerber are the storytellers that bring Scrooge's story to life on the Alliance stage this year, and they do it with the greatest of skill. All of the voice actors work adeptly with a huge catalogue of characters, moving back and forth from one character to another with ease. Here, a French woman. There, a young boy. The sound artist, Stuart W. Gerber, contributes the sounds of the story: wind, bells, creaking floors. Together, the storytellers populate an entire city with vibrant and varied voices and sounds. In addition, all support the beautifully interactive and well-sung musical component of the production.

The production, which is quite interactive, is wonderful for families. During the performance, the actors encourage the patrons to honk car horns, flash car lights, and sing along to familiar Christmas songs. You can even have food from local restaurants delivered right to your car.

Watching real actors deliver real lines on a real stage is enough this year. It's really enough. But these actors in this wonderful Alliance setting made this production way more than enough. And when, at the end of the play, Tiny Tim said, "God bless us, every one," as he does every single time, it felt very new. And so much more important than it ever has before.

A Christmas Carol: The Live Radio Play plays through December 23 at Summerhill.

For additional information and to purchase tickets, visit www.alliancetheatre.org.



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From This Author Amy Zipperer